The proposed Sizewell C development has the potential to have a major impact on one of the most wildlife-rich areas of the UK.
The Suffolk Coast is an outstanding location for wildlife and people alike, with a rich and varied mosaic of habitats providing a landscape of wild beauty. It is a safe haven for an amazing variety of wildlife including iconic species such as the bittern, marsh harrier and otter.
RSPB Minsmere, adjacent to the proposed development site on the Suffolk Coast, has been a nature reserve since 1947 and is one of our flagship sites for both wildlife and visitors.
Minsmere nature reserve forms part of a wider area of the Suffolk Coast widely recognised for its value for wildlife. It is protected by a range of national and international nature conservation designations including SSSI (a type of protected area with special or exceptional wildlife features), SPA (European designation for rare and vulnerable birds), SAC (European designation designed to protect habitats and wildlife species) and Ramsar site (for wetlands of international importance).
The Sizewell estate, which borders RSPB Minsmere to the south, is one of eight sites which have been identified by government as potentially appropriate locations to construct new nuclear power stations. The existing Sizewell nuclear power stations consist of Sizewell A, two reactors now in the process of being decommissioned, and Sizewell B, a single reactor.
Proposals for Sizewell C began in 2009 when EDF Energy nominated an area of land north of Sizewell B as a site for Sizewell C. In July 2011, the UK Government confirmed the site was potentially suitable.
The proposals for Sizewell C consist of two reactors to the north of Sizewell B. This will bring the existing development right up to the boundary of Minsmere nature reserve. In addition to the permanent buildings, infrastructure and access roads, there is a significant area of land identified for temporary storage and construction use during the development. If permission is granted, construction is expected to take up to twelve years.
At this stage our main concerns with the proposed Sizewell C development stem from its proximity to internationally and nationally important and designated wildlife sites, especially RSPB Minsmere nature reserve. Although no direct development is proposed on the reserve itself, there is potential for impacts on Minsmere's coastline through changes in coastal processes as a result of the planned sea defences for the development.
There is also potential for impacts on the reserve's wetland habitats resulting from changes to water availability, and for direct disturbance of protected wildlife, namely marsh harrier, and species of waterfowl and waders. There will be direct loss of some wetland and fen habitat at Sizewell Marshes SSSI.
Much of the information presented in the Stage 2 Consultation Document related to elements of the project that will not impact on RSPB Minsmere and other protected wildlife sites. There were some points of concern, however, including the potential for Sizewell C's coastal defences and other coastal structures to affect the natural coastal processes operating on the RSPB Minsmere coastline.
If these structures were to cause increased erosion, this could result in effects on the reserve's habitats, now or in the future. If this happens, the development will have a significant impact on both nationally and internationally important wildlife areas. The information provided in the Stage 2 consultation was not detailed enough to give us confidence that damage to Minsmere's coastline will not occur as a result of the proposed development.