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Will Chinese involvement ultimately mean the end for Sizewell C.

July 9, 2020 6:00 PM

Sizewell C Development Consent Order application hits the Planning Inspectorate's desk, but what now for its future?

By Jon James

Nuclear Power (Creative Commons Hendrik Tammen (Enricopedia))

This week householders in parts of East Suffolk coastal areas have received a summary of EDFs proposals for Sizewell nuclear plant as the planning application is accepted for examination by the Planning Inspectorate. Cropped coastal image (Helen Hanley [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

The plan for two third generation pressurised water reactors, EPR (European Pressure Reactors) at Sizewell has now reached the Pre-examination stage with plans for the full examination this coming Winter and a final Government decision by next Summer 2021. At this stage anyone can register their interest in the plans with the Planning Inspectorate (PINS). Additionally, EDF have also applied to the Office for Nuclear Regulation for a Site Licence and to the Environment Agency for operational permits and given the high degree of interest and concern about the environmental impact of siting this third nuclear plant on the Suffolk Coast, the two related consultation periods by the EA are likely to generate a significant response. All the current indicators point to the local County and District Councils and numerous lower tier councils giving the project a less than enthusiastic response.

Factors outside the current scope of planners

One of the decisions not included in the planning application is funding which will be determined by the UK Government. It is worth noting that the state-owned Chinese group, China General Nuclear Corporation (CGN) has an option to acquire 20% of the planned plant at Sizewell C.

Significantly, this stage in the planning process comes at a politically sensitive time when the Chinese Government is moving away from being a benign global trading partner we hoped that they would become and is once again flexing its economic, political and military might; engaging in the suppression of ethnic minorities and the freedom to protest in Hong Kong. The UK's relations with the Chinese are reaching a low point following the decision by Beijing to approve a new national security law in Hong Kong and stamp their authoritarian foot on the former UK colony, removing the basic freedoms and the right of protest by its citizens and effectively raising a Firewall restricting access to the internet.

Additionally, Reuters report that having granted Huawei a limited role in its future 5G networks in January, UK ministers have since said the U.S. sanctions could have a significant impact on its ability to securely supply crucial pieces of networking equipment and Boris Johnson has come under pressure from the United States and MP's in his own party to ban Huawei over security concerns. Johnson, is expected to make a decision on whether to further restrict the Chinese company's role by the end of the month.

Boris Johnson's Government are now between a rock and a hard place. With the country in a major recession, engulfed in national debt and still trying to balance the need to protect the nation's health and regenerate the economy, Johnson faces a potential double whammy from an increasingly likely post Brexit No deal with the EU. Facing significant levels of unemployment and a need to preserve and create new jobs and 'build, build build', Johnson will have to avoid upsetting current and future trading partners and foreign investors including the Chinese and at the same time ensure the security of UK energy. It is difficult to see the economic and political situation returning to anything like normal by next Summer so what are the chances of seeing a part-funded Chinese Sizewell C being approved in 2021?

The Sizewell C project has been the subject of a series of Consultations and East Suffolk Lib Dems have drawn on the interest, concerns and expertise locally in drafting responses to EDF. It will continue to monitor and register its interest in the planning stages and produce further documents for submission to the Planning Inspectorate and Environmental Agency. We welcome considered responses from our members and supporters and from others living and working in our local communities.

This is one of the largest and most important local developments in our region for a generation.

Do let us have your responses and views for consideration and potential inclusion in our East Suffolk Liberal Democrats submission.



The Pre-examination stage has now commenced and runs until 30th September 2020.

Anyone can register their interest in the Sizewell C application with the Planning Inspectorate (PINS),

To read the full application and register your interest with PINS


Sizewell C Information Office 0800 197 6102 for hard copy or to book appointment on the local digital mobile library viewings