The numerous delays in the dates for consultation and construction of Sizewell C & D must be good news for many so called ‘interested parties’ ( EADT 5 Feb,11,19 and 20 March). It opens up the opportunity for a really thorough and well-informed debate which is certainly not evident so far. 

The reported community consensus about building two major roads -one the four parishes A12 bypass, the other the resurrected Layfield D2  new road from the A12 - will take a fair amount of time with land purchase and the now widely adopted ‘Grampian’ principle that any associated works for a big development need to be in  place before the development starts. 

The numerous organisations supposed to be representing the environment and wildlife should welcome the extra time to reconsider their apparent support for EdF. This has not being going down well with their members from what one hears. They seem to have got in bed rather too quickly instead of sticking to their primary responsibilities to wildlife and protected nature habitats. 

The tourist industry, which the recently  reported Suffolk conference says needs to up its act might now find time to consider the impact of two new huge reactors, and a big waste store and coastal bridge on their future customers too, not forgetting the traffic and blight of a vast construction site for maybe 10 or more years.

Councillors above all should welcome the delays, and if they are really following events rather than being led by the nose - should know that the delays could be even longer. This is because of unsettled business at Hinkley, and the likelihood that Sizewell would not ‘enjoy’ a special strike price subsidy. Hinkley claims to have a so-called green light, but there is still no money, negotiations drag on, and the green light is truly only half an amber, with lengthy legal appeals in Europe only just getting going. 

The majority of councillors who seem to have been kept in the dark by the Joint Local Authority Group, who do all the talks with EdF, should be able to start asserting their rights and doing their duty, demanding to know what is going on in their name.

And then after the general election, a new government will have to realise that if the lights are going to go out, it will be years before any new nuclear power could even dream of being up and running. And the little publicised operating life extensions for existing nuclear plants present problems too: recent micro cracks in steel containment vessels in Sizewell B type reactors in Belgium means that this is not a reliable project either.

Add to all this the severe financial problems of EdF and French reactor builder Areva back home in France, and the fact that Sizewell would be a very much more expensive operation. Hinkley has cost over £100 million in so called ‘mitigations’, although the Government banned a property blight offer to ‘refurbish’ affected private homes, knocking a bit off the bill. Sizewell with so much nature and protected wildlife and such huge road and traffic problems would cost a whole lot more, and we now know it has not been allowed for in the Chancellor’s five year austerity forecast.

 Next comes our government’s launch of a new financial model with a 'golden share'. This poses new competition and investment problems and is meant to mollify public concern about foreign (Chinese and Middle Eastern?) ownership of British nuclear plants. After all, EdF could sell it all off.  What a load of extra headaches coming down the policy pipelines ! 

So it’s a chance for a real debate, and one stresses ‘real’:  key facts have to be on the table. One still to be properly understood is that Suffolk does not have to have these reactors. There are eight chosen sites for seven new nuclear projects. That’s in the national planning law. Secondly, and to be argued out, there are energy alternatives which will be more flexible, quicker to build, cheaper long-run, safer (of course) and better for the environment and nature. Protecting nature (that’s landscape and tourism jobs and property as well as birds and creatures and their habitats) is a legal duty, not an obstacle to be overcome. These laws require full alternatives to be explored. 

EdF are supposed to be considering alternatives energy sources too: how about a big solar park on the estate in place of dangerous new reactors ? Or a wind farm …….

Regan Scott

Category: Local Letters