The proposed development at Sizewell for two new European Pressurised Reactors (EPRs) must be stopped and it can be stopped if the people of east Suffolk in the towns and villages which would be adversely affected by the nine to twelve year construction period are prepared to make their voices heard.

New nuclear power plants are not required to ‘keep the lights on’. Report after report has shown that we can meet all our climate change, cost and electricity generating requirements without resorting to expensive and dangerous nuclear power which creates massive infrastructure problems as well as a waste issue which is truly intergenerational: it is entirely possible that our great-great-grandchildren will still be looking after the highly toxic waste we create in the next fifty years, bearing all the costs but none of the ‘benefits’.

Nuclear power is therefore an option rather than an imperative in respect of the choice we make for the way in which we meet electricity demands over the next century. The nuclear industry is in general decline. Renewables, decentralization, energy efficiency, smart grids, micro-technology and conservation are the directions in which progressive countries are moving – away from the regressive, complicated and antiquated technology of nuclear power. Most countries pursuing new nuclear build programmes already have or wish to acquire nuclear weapons. Sizewell C, like Hinkley C, has more to do with ensuring the retention of nuclear skills in the workforce, securing the nuclear supply chain and the availability of nuclear material required for missile-carrying Trident submarines than it has to do with providing consumers with electricity. Electricity demand has fallen by around 16% in the last decade. Don’t let them tell you that the lights will go out without Sizewell C: it’s just another way to frighten you into supporting the destruction of our environment.

Quite apart from uncertainties surrounding the health impact of exposure to even low level, routine radiation emissions and the total inadequacy of the emergency plan to evacuate people from a radiation cloud caused by a major incident at the plant, the decade or more of Sizewell C development will require the construction of five new roundabouts on the A12, road widening and straightening, worker campuses, massive park and ride facilities, compulsory purchase orders and the acceptance of upto 1,000 heavy goods vehicle movements every day to and from the site. Noise, dust, light pollution and the influx of thousands of workers will make daily life a living hell for thousands in the once-tranquil villages of rural east Suffolk. Woods will be felled and cleared. Our heritage coast will be diminished. The new reactors will be sited in a flood zone, vulnerable to tidal surges, more extreme weather and flooding. Within 100 years, coastal erosion will turn Sizewell into an island, on which will be stored an unimaginable amount of radioactivity. The planned development is to take place in possibly the worst of all locations.

And what of the nuclear waste to which EdF representatives will tell you there is a ‘solution’? We already have 500,000m3 of waste – five times the capacity of the Albert Hall in London – created by the first round of nuclear power stations, the Magnox and AGR programmes which came to a halt with the construction of the only Pressurised Water Reactor in the UK, Sizewell B. That legacy waste is here, we can’t magic it away and it has to be dealt with somehow and in some way. The Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM), recommended that disposal in a deep geological facility (GDF) was not the best but the least-worst option and disposal was adopted as government policy ever since CoRWM published its report in 2007. But CoRWM made a series of conditions on its recommendations, the most important of which is that disposal should not automatically stretch to new nuclear build spent nuclear fuel which is hotter, and more radioactive than the current fuel. Creating a new and more dangerous waste stream brings with it a raft of moral and ethical considerations, such as ‘do we have the right to knowingly create a new radioactive waste inventory for future generations when there is no demonstrable means of dealing with it?’ Government cannot press ahead with the generation of such a stockpile based solely on the assumption that the problems associated with disposal will somehow and at some time be overcome. No self-respecting planning authority should ever grant permission for a plant creating poisonous chemicals without convincing evidence of its ability to treat its waste streams. That evidence is currently absent.

Nuclear regulators, advisers and the industry itself know that there are many significant technical and scientific hurdles to disposal. They also know that Sizewell C will likely be a white elephant producing electricity which will quite possibly be surplus to the requirements of the country in ten to fifteen years, by which time demand will have fallen even further as we use what we have more efficiently and as we take more demand away from the national grid.

And now, to add insult to injury, EdF want us to pay for the degrading of our own back yard by charging us a £6 annual premium on energy bills which will go straight to the French government to finance Sizewell C. It will also make every bill payer an accessory to the further destruction of our heritage areas by helping EdF to build its redundant white elephant on our precious coast. This ridiculous scheme, supported by the government, represents the shifting of the financing for new nuclear plants from the original and much-trumpeted one of ‘no subsidies’ to the unavoidable reality of ‘transfer the cost to the public’, which includes picking up some of the financial risk for the inevitable overruns in costs that will occur from building Sizewell C. It is a bad deal all round for consumers in the UK and for the residents of east Suffolk.

EdF and the government will make light of the issues raised above, but you have the ability to inform yourselves and to tell your councillors that you reject Sizewell C, EdF and the government’s failing and chaotic energy policy. Together we can stop it.

Pete Wilkinson

Chairman TASC