Environmental permits granted for Sizewell C

28 March 2023

The UK's Environment Agency has granted EDF Energy subsidiary NNB Generation Company (Sizewell C) Limited three environmental permits for the planned Sizewell C nuclear power plant in Suffolk, England. Meanwhile, Sizewell C and Associated British Ports (ABP) are developing plans to locate a unique Direct Air Capture (DAC) facility at Lowestoft, capable of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere using low-carbon heat from nuclear.

Two EPR reactors are planned for Sizewell C, which will be built adjacent to Sizewell B (Image: EDF Energy)

NNB GenCo (SZC) applied to the Environment Agency for three environmental permits - a radioactive substances activity permit, a combustion activity permit and a water discharge activity permit - in May 2020. The Environment Agency consulted on the application from July to October 2020 and on their proposed decision and draft permits from July to September 2022.

The permits now granted by the Environment Agency are required for the Sizewell C plant to operate and will allow it to dispose of and discharge radioactive waste, operate standby power supply systems using diesel generators and discharge returned abstracted seawater and other liquid trade effluents to the North Sea.

"Each of the three permits is an important regulatory permission that the company requires to operate Sizewell C nuclear power station," the Environment Agency said. "They include the limits and conditions that the company needs to put in place to ensure high standards of environmental protection during commissioning, operation and decommissioning."

"Today's decision to issue the three permits for these operational activities comes after 10 years of pre-application discussions, three years of technical assessments and two public consultations," said the Environment Agency’s Sizewell C Project Manager, Simon Barlow. "In reaching this decision we carefully considered all the responses from a wide range of stakeholders in the local community, national organisations and statutory consultees"

He added: "By granting these permits many years ahead of Sizewell C operating, we can positively influence the design, procurement, and commissioning of the power station, whilst also ensuring that people and the environment are protected."

The Environment Agency is the independent environmental regulator for the nuclear industry in England. It regulates specific environmental matters at nuclear sites in England by issuing environmental permits covering site preparation, construction, operation and decommissioning.

It noted that NNB GenCo (SZC) "will need to continue to apply for a range of environmental permits relating to site investigation, construction works and for relevant 'associated developments' such as workers' accommodation".

The plan is for Sizewell C to feature two EPRs producing 3.2 GW of electricity, enough to power the equivalent of around six million homes. It would be a "replica" of the Hinkley Point C plant, under construction in Somerset.

Demonstration DAC facility

Sizewell C and ABP have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to finalise the commercial arrangements to lease a site at the Port of Lowestoft, further up the Suffolk coast from the Sizewell site, to house a demonstrator DAC facility. The planning permission to build the facility will be sought shortly.

Port of Lowestoft (Image: ABP)

"Direct Air Capture - a technology that uses chemical reactions to pull carbon dioxide out of the air, which can then be stored - could become a key technology for reducing carbon emissions and tackling climate change," EDF said. "The project at Lowestoft is designed to demonstrate a more efficient and innovative DAC process, which would be powered principally by heat."

If the demonstrator project is successful, a permanent full-scale DAC unit could then use heat generated from Sizewell C to extract CO2 from the air. The full-scale DAC facility would be located at a separate location to the power plant, with the heat transported through underground pipes. Such a facility could potentially capture 1.5 million tonnes of CO2 each year.

The plans follow the UK government's decision to award GBP3.0 million (USD3.7 million) to Sizewell C and its partners (Birmingham University, Nottingham University, Helical, Atkins and Altrad Babcock) in 2022 as part of the Greenhouse Gas Removals competition, to develop this novel heat-assisted DAC technology.

"We are delighted to be developing plans with ABP to locate the demonstrator DAC facility at the Port of Lowestoft and to help drive net-zero innovation in the East of England," said Sizewell C Director Julia Pyke. "DAC is one part of our plan to make Sizewell C a low-carbon hub, which will help kickstart other technologies and deliver even more value to our energy system."

"ABP's Port of Lowestoft is delighted to host this demonstrator DAC project, which represents a great step forward in our shared goals of achieving net-zero," said ABP Regional Director Andrew Harston. "The project aligns closely with ABP's recently published strategy, to achieve net-zero by 2040, as well as SZC's focus on the production of clean, low-carbon energy."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News