Sizewell C nuclear plant construction a step closer
Construction of the Sizewell C nuclear plant in Suffolk has moved a step closer after a Development Consent Order (DCO) was officially triggered.
The project, partly funded by the French energy company EDF, is expected to cost in the region of £20bn.
Building permission was granted in July 2022 with a number of conditions set, which developers said had now been met.
Campaigners said they were shocked the government had agreed to work starting on "a deeply flawed project".
EDF wants to build a two-reactor nuclear power station that will generate 3.2 gigawatts (GW) of electricity - enough to provide 7% of the UK's needs.
It claims Sizewell C could power the equivalent of about six million homes and generate electricity for 60 years.
When work starts, it is expected to take about nine years to build.
The government set out a number of obligations that needed to be satisfied before construction could commence on the plant, including key road surveys and the establishment of governance groups.
Sizewell C said these had all been met and Nuclear Minister, Andrew Bowie, is visiting the site to mark the occasion and meet the project team.
He described triggering the DCO as "a major milestone for Sizewell C and our ambition to deliver up to 24GW of low-carbon nuclear power by 2050".
"East Anglia will benefit from thousands of new jobs and apprenticeships as a result, demonstrating the local rewards of backing new nuclear," he added.
Julia Pyke and Nigel Cann, joint managing directors at Sizewell C, said: "This is a significant moment for our project in Suffolk and a big step for British energy security.
"We've had a really successful year of pre-commencement works on site, and we've been working hard with local partners and organisations to ensure we're ready to take this next step for the project."
However, those who have fought the plans for the plant are continuing to oppose the development.
Alison Downes, from one of the campaign groups, Stop Sizewell C, said: "We are shocked that the government has let loose the bulldozers at Sizewell C when the finance for this deeply flawed project is, by their own admission, still months away.
"It is also telling that the enormous cost is being kept secret. Significant environmental destruction has already taken place, yet there is still so much unknown, including whether the necessary billions of pounds can actually be raised, and from whom."
In September, the government, Sizewell C and EDF launched a bid for further private investment in the project. The developer said discussions were continuing, with an announcement due later this year.
Jenny Kirtley, chair of Together Against Sizewell C, said: "Driven by nuclear ideology rather than practicality, the government is showing blatant disregard for the protected landscape of the Suffolk coast."
Sizewell C said commencing formal construction would activate a £250m package of funding for the local community, which would "become available in phases during the construction phase of the project".
It said the funding included £23m for community projects, £100m for the environment, £12m to support local tourism, and a £12m housing fund to boost private housing and tourist accommodation.
In nearby Leiston people said although construction would cause disruption it would ultimately benefit the local community.
Paul Smith said: "It's about time. It took too long in my eyes. It will create more jobs."
"We're struggling as it is for power and nuclear is one of the ways to do it. You need a bit of everything - wind and nuclear," he added.
Chris Nicholls said: "They should have built it when they did Sizewell B but it's done and dusted now. It's good for jobs and we need the power.
"Hopefully they've put the infrastructure in. I worked on Sizewell B at the time, there's going to be a bit of disruption but we need it."