The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) are not surprised EDF Energy has submitted today an application to build the new Sizewell C nuclear power plant to the Planning Inspectorate. NFLA believe the application should though have been delayed until the Covid-19 lockdown is over. NFLA see the project as filled with considerable financial, technical and environmental risk at a time when renewable energy alternatives are coming in ever cheaper and more realisable.
EDF have held four rounds of local consultation on Sizewell C, which have still left the local Councils and environmental groups arguing there remains a real lack of information on the development. (1) Despite this, EDF have now moved to the next stage to ask the Planning Inspectorate to consider the project.
Local groups like Together Against Sizewell C, Stop Sizewell C, the Suffolk Wildlife Trust, the Suffolk Coastal Friends of the Earth, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the National Trust have all been critical of the proposed reactor project, arguing there cannot be full public participation at the moment due to the public health emergency around Covid-19 outbreak, whilst raising detailed concerns on environmental, health, technical and climate change grounds. (2) East Suffolk contains some of the most environmentally sensitive sites in the country and a coastline that is highly susceptible to the effects of climate change.
Local MPs like Dan Poulter have criticised EDF for going ahead with the development at the moment, while parish, district, town and county councillors from across Suffolk have raised real concerns and even outright opposition on Sizewell C. (3)
The fundamental issue is how Sizewell C will be financed. Due to the heavy costs EDF has encountered with Hinkley Point C, it has lobbied the UK Government to use a new finance mechanism, the Revenue Asset Base (RAB) model, to help underwrite and finance new nuclear projects. In its response to the Government’s consultation on the RAB model, NFLA commented:
- Consumers may end up paying for nuclear projects which are not completed;
- The financial risk is shifted squarely onto consumers;
- It will be difficult to define a credible cost overrun threshold when already two EPR projects in Finland and France have tripled in cost;
- Private finance may still not be forthcoming despite all the effort being put into this funding model;
- There is limited experience of using the RAB model for anything as complex and risky as nuclear;
- The project developer will hold all the information, so the proposed Regulator will only be able to make token adjustments to projected costings;
- Setting up a new regulatory regime will mean the time it takes to provide any carbon savings will be far too long, at a time of real concern with responding urgently to the ‘climate emergency’;
- The Revenue Stream will include a variable strike price – consumers effectively forced to write a ‘blank cheque’ to the nuclear industry. (4)
Added to these substantial issues, the Government has yet to publish its views on taking this finance model forward, and due to the Covid-19 outbreak, now faces an unprecedented economic crisis where considerable amounts of public finance is required across large areas of the economy. The RAB model is simply going to be too expensive to include with all these other financial challenges. With renewable energy now coming in so significantly cheaper than new nuclear, and other low carbon strategies like energy efficiency, decentralised energy and smart energy being considerably more attractive, NFLA has serious doubts on whether Sizewell C can be financed in this way.
NFLA Steering Committee Chair Councillor David Blackburn said:
“NFLA are disappointed EDF has put forward an application for Sizewell C in the midst of the worst public health emergency in known times, potentially limiting public participation in the project for the future. There is significant local opposition to the development on well-founded concerns over the impact of such a development on the local environment and climate change. There remains significant technical questions on building EPR reactors as well. Above all, there has to be a major question over whether new nuclear can find the finance to develop this expensive project. Sizewell C is not needed and we encourage the Planning Inspectorate to take account of all these issues and reject it.”
Ends – for more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 0161 234 3244.
Notes to Editors:
(1) NFLA New Nuclear Monitor 59, September 2019
(2) Opposition calls for Suffolk County Council to publicly oppose Sizewell C, 11th March 2020
(3) East Anglian Daily Times, 27th May 2020
(4) NFLA New Nuclear Monitor 58, September 2019