Sizewell C secures nuclear site licence

Not everyone is happy

The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has granted a nuclear site licence to install and operate a nuclear power station at Sizewell C in Suffolk.

The licence application by Sizewell C Ltd was originally turned down by the ONR in 2022 on financial/legal rather than technical grounds: issues relating to the shareholders’ agreement and ownership of land at the site needed resolving. These have now been resolved to ONR’s satisfaction.

Although the granting of a site licence is a significant step, it does not permit the start of nuclear-related construction on the site.

ONR’s regulatory responsibility starts at the point of granting of a nuclear site licence. Now granted, it is able to use the powers within that  licence to require Sizewell C Ltd to request its permission for starting nuclear-related construction.

Sizewell C Ltd is also required to seek ONR’s permission to proceed to subsequent key construction and commissioning stages, up to the start of commercial operation and beyond.

ONR chief executive Mark Foy said: “I am pleased to confirm that following extensive engagement and review by the ONR team, our assessment of the Sizewell C application is complete and a nuclear site has been licence granted.

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“The licensing process is fundamental in confirming that operators of a nuclear site are ready and able to meet their obligations under the nuclear site licence, to protect their workforce and the public.

“The granting of this licence is one step in ONR’s process, allowing us to provide greater regulatory oversight, advice and challenge to the licensee as they progress their plans.

“We will continue working with Sizewell C to ensure that the highest levels of quality, safety and security are met.”

Campaigners against the development in Suffolk expressed concern that the site licence had been granted while technical issues remain outstanding, including with regard to a long-term sustainable supply of potable water, the risk that turbine disintegration at Sizewell C could impact Sizewell B and concerns that the 60-metre deep platform excavations necessary for the construction of Sizewell C could impact Sizewell B.

The Stop Sizewell C campaign group said it was “appalled that a nuclear site licence has been issued when matters critical to the future safety of the site remain unresolved”.

It added: “There isn’t even a final design of the sea defences, which will be necessary to keep this vulnerable site safe for the next century and a half, at the very least.”

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