Sizewell and the sea
Sizewell and the coast
In July 2022, the Development Consent Order (DCO) for Sizewell C was approved by the UK Government bringing us closer to delivering reliable, low carbon energy for six million homes across the UK. Since then some questions have been raised about siting the station on the coastline and we are pleased to provide some clarity on this point.
All nuclear plants in the UK are located near the sea so that water can be used in the power station cooling system.
Electricity has been safely produced from nuclear power at Sizewell for over half a century. Siting Sizewell C next to Sizewell B reduces the environmental impact from construction and the site can benefit from nuclear licencing and a grid connection.
The design of the power station, including its sea defence and the raised platform it will be built on, will protect Sizewell C from flooding. Our plans take account of the effect of climate change and the predicted rise in sea levels over the coming decades.
It is true that parts of the Suffolk coastline are experiencing erosion. However, Sizewell is located on a more stable section of land, between two hard points and the offshore bank of sediment known as the ‘Dunwich - Sizewell Bank’.
Sizewell A has stood on the same part of coastline since 1966 and Sizewell B has operated since 1995. In more than half a century, neither of those power stations has seen any flooding or significant coastal erosion.
The Government’s Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) is based in nearby Lowestoft and has comprehensive data for coastal change on the East Coast going back to the 1800s, including 30-years of high-quality beach profile data collected by the Environment Agency. The data show that this part of the coast has been stable and in future, the beach at Sizewell C will be enlarged and maintained to form a Soft Coastal Defence Feature, for the life of the station.
Radar measures wave action along the Sizewell coast
Sea level predictions
Climate change will lead to rising sea levels around the world. Official forecasts for the UK are published by the Met Office Hadley Centre Climate Change programme as UK Climate Projections (UKCP). They are regularly updated and peer-reviewed.
While the latest projections (UKCP18) provide general, UK-wide estimates of the effects of climate change they also show there will be regional variations. For example, the projections for conditions at Sizewell show that even under the worst-case climate scenario, maximum wave heights are likely to remain similar or decrease.
Sizewell C will be built on a platform standing approximately 7 metres above today’s mean sea level and will be protected by a sea defence structure which will be more than 14 metres above mean sea level. These and many other measures incorporated into the design of the power station will protect it from the sea.
To make sure our plans are future-proof, our sea defence will be adaptable and could be raised in future if sea level rise turns out to be greater than current predictions.
We have performed thousands of hours of flood risk modelling using the highest plausible estimates for sea level rise in the Sizewell area. Our assessments show that the power station and access road will be built to withstand a 1-in-10,000-year storm and 1-in-100,000-year surge events.
Although extreme storm events could result in some sea water coming over the sea defence and pooling around the site, it would drain away in a matter of hours. This is predicted, planned for, and reflected in the design of the entire Sizewell C site.
Drones are regularly flown over the Sizewell beach and photograph every 3cm square of the coastline, producing 3D maps of any changes and coastal erosion. Wave and tide gauges will also allow us to monitor sea conditions at Sizewell throughout the lifetime of the power station. If there are any unexpected developments, we will take action to address them.
Drones monitor changes on the Sizewell coastline
Our sea defence plans are strictly regulated by the following organisations:
East Suffolk Council
The Development Consent Order we require for the power station comes with a legal requirement to monitor and mitigate coastal processes throughout construction and operation.
The Environment Agency is responsible for flood and coastal erosion risk management activities on the coast and works in partnership with the Met Office to provide flood forecasts and warnings. Throughout the Construction and Operation of Sizewell C, the Environment Agency will work together with the Local Flood Authorities and Sizewell C to ensure that adequate Flood Risk Management measures are in place.
Office for Nuclear Regulation
The ONR is responsible for regulating safety and security at nuclear sites across the UK. This includes ensuring the design, construction, operation and decommissioning of the Power Station includes a high level of protection against external hazards such as flooding taking account of climate change predictions. The ONR will have to be satisfied that Sizewell C is resilient to any coastal flood (or other) hazards for the entire lifecycle of the facility including recommissioning and remediation prior to any significant construction beginning.
Read the 2021 Sizewell Coastal Defences report here and the draft Coastal Processes Monitoring and Mitigation Plan (CPMMP) here.