Policy Briefing: Sizewell C nuclear reactor

Adam Barnett

Wednesday 17 February 2021

Dawn at minsmere

Find out why The RSPB is urging the Government to immediately pause the approval process for building the Sizewell C nuclear reactor.

The RSPB is extremely concerned about the potential environmental impacts of EDF’s proposals to build the Sizewell C nuclear reactor on the Suffolk coast. The current proposals would result in a brand-new twin reactor being built next to the RSPB’s Minsmere reserve, and directly on part of the Sizewell Marshes SSSI. Public concern has also been clearly demonstrated, with 20,000 people supporting our LoveMinsmere campaign in 2019.
Problems with the Sizewell C Proposal:

  • Minsmere is widely acknowledged as one of Europe’s most important wildlife sites and is covered by both national and international legal environmental protections
  • Minsmere is home to over 6,000 species, including many protected animals such as otters, water voles, marsh harriers, bats and much more – with the local populations of all of these species at risk from this huge infrastructure project
  • Our concerns also extend to marine life, as the proposals suggest that the waters off the local beaches could be warmed, and that toxic chemicals could be pumped into the sea, along with huge amounts of dead fish.

Sizewell C’s potential impacts on wildlife

EDF’s proposals, evidence and recent media coverage minimise the potentially huge impact on wildlife, by missing out vital aspects of the planned development, such as:

  • Detailed designs for key features including coastal defenses, the crossing over the Sizewell Marshes SSSI, and the beach landing facility – without knowing the details of these, a thorough Environmental Impact Assessment cannot be undertaken. Such large physical structures could have significant impacts on a variety of natural coastal processes including water quality, water flow and habitat quality.
  • The adequacy of the proposed compensatory habitat for marsh harriers – in terms of location, habitat components, size, level of prey and disturbance levels.
  • The displacement of visitors to the site – both for the loss of local tourism and its associated economic benefits, and the impact of diverted visitors on the habitats of a variety of sensitive species such as beach nesting birds.
  • The impact on species in the surrounding area, including bird populations in the internationally important Outer Thames Estuary Special Protection Area (SPA) and the Minsmere-Walberswick SPA, and bats in nearby Upper Abbey Farm.
  • The total and cumulative impacts of the project on protected sites and their habitats and species. Only individual impacts have been assessed – which does not cover the potential cumulative effects on the protected sites and their features as a whole.
  • Environmental Impact Assessments have been completed using insufficient data, including an incomplete baseline, lack robust assessments and include insufficient consideration of the efficacy of any mitigation proposed.

The Government’s ambition to reverse biodiversity loss

The Government has recently committed to protecting 30% of the UK’s land by 2030 to boost biodiversity, and recent RSPB reports have found that the UK has failed to meet all of the 2010 Aichi Biodiversity Targets (2020 Lost Decade Report) and the UK has experienced an 41% reduction in biodiversity since 1970 (2019 State of Nature Report).

We are in a climate and nature emergency, and in this context it is unacceptable for the Government to greenlight such a major project, which will potentially cause such a huge amount of destruction and disturbance of wildlife and nature in one of the UK’s most nature rich places, without adequate assessments and sufficient mitigation being made.

We are urging the Government to immediately pause the approval process for this development until a comprehensive assessment of the ecological risks has been undertaken, and alternative options have been exhausted.

Download policy briefing PDF

Last Updated: Friday 23 April 2021


Coast on a stormy day

Kirsten Carter

Principal Policy Officer

Tagged with: Country: England Topic: Planning Topic: Saving special places (UK) Topic: Nature protection