The site of Sizewell A occupies 245 acres (99 hectares) north of Sizewell. It is on a low plateau above flood level. The geological foundation comprises Norwich Crag Formation and Red Crag Formation bedrock of Pleistocene age above Eocene London Clay. The Crag deposits predominantly consist of medium dense and dense sands with thin layers of clay and silt and fossiliferous shelly horizons. The Crag strata extend to a depth of 200 feet (60 metres) below ground level.
The site is reached by road, with the nearest railhead about one mile inland at Sizewell Halt. Sidings were installed at the railhead primarily to transport irradiated elements to the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority plant at Sellafield, Cumbria.
The Midlands Project Group of the Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) planned and managed the project. The main contract was placed in November 1960 and construction work on Sizewell A began on 1 April 1961. The main construction contract was awarded to British Nuclear Design and Construction Ltd ('BNDC'), a consortium backed by English Electric, Babcock & Wilcox Ltd and Taylor Woodrow Construction, The initial budget was £56 million, but due to inflation this figure rose to £65 million. During its 40-year operational lifetime, it had produced 110 TWh (400 PJ) of electricity, which would have been sufficient to meet the domestic needs of England and Wales for 6 months. Unit 1 was commissioned on 21 March 1966, and Unit 2 on 15 September. The station was officially opened on 7 April 1967 by Commander The Earl of Stradbroke, RN, the queen's Lieutenant of Suffolk.
The designed net electrical output of the station was 652 MWe. The total generating capacity was reduced to 490 MW in 1969, and then 420 MWe in 1973, to arrest the rate of oxidation of internal reactor-core components. At full load, 70 MWe were used in providing works power from the gross electrical output of 490 MWe.
The main plant consisted of two 1,010 MW (thermal) Magnox reactors, which were natural uranium, carbon dioxide gas cooled, graphite moderated units. These supplied heat to eight boiler units, four associated with each reactor. The steam produced by the boilers was fed to two turbo-generators each rated at 325 MW, but which operated at a reduced capacity of 250 MW from 1969.
The reactors and turbines were both supplied by English Electric.
The foundations for the reactors and associated boilers are provided by a reinforced concrete raft 8 feet (2.4 metres) thick, founded on the sand with a designed net bearing pressure of 3.5 tons per square foot. The biological shields are 100 feet (30.5 metres) high and vary between 10 and 14 feet (3 and 4.3 metres) thick. The composite steel and reinforced concrete cap above each reactor is 12 feet (3.7 metres) thick. Both reactors were housed in a single building to achieve savings in building costs.
The turbine house is a steel framed, aluminium clad building 380 feet (115.8 metres) long, 160 feet (48.8 metres) wide and 90 feet (27.4 metres) high, with a reinforced concrete basement 26 feet (7.9 metres) deep. The foundations are provided by isolated bases and strip footings with a designed maximum bearing pressure of 3 tons per square foot.
The pumphouse which supplied the main turbines with 27 million gallons of cooling water per hour drew sea water from an intake structure about 1,350 feet (410 metres) offshore via twin 10 feet (3 metres) diameter tunnels. This water was returned to the sea through similar tunnels discharging 350 feet (107 metres) offshore.
The power station was shut down on 31 December 2006. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) is responsible for placing contracts for the decommissioning of Sizewell A, at a budgeted cost of £1.2 billion.
On 7 January 2007 a contractor working on the decommissioning of the station noticed water leaking on to the floor of the laundry where he was washing his clothes. The water was found to be cooling water from the pond that holds the reactor's spent nuclear fuel which had dropped more than 1 foot (0.30 m) without activating any of the alarms. It is estimated that up to 40,000 gallons (151,500 litres) of radioactive water had leaked from a 15 ft (4.6 m) split in a pipe, with some spilling into the North Sea. According to the HM Nuclear Installation Inspectorate's report of the incident, without the chance intervention of the contractor, the pond could have drained before the next scheduled plant inspection. If the exposed irradiated fuel had caught fire, it would have resulted in an airborne off-site release of radiation.
Sizewell A was the location where Thomas Dolby shot the music video to Europa and The Pirate Twins.
Sizewell B is the UK's only commercial pressurised water reactor (PWR) power station. Its single reactor was built and commissioned between 1987 and 1995, and first synchronised with the national grid on 14 Feb 1995. The main civil engineering contractor was John Laing plc. The power station is operated by EDF Energy. The architectural design was carried out by YRM
EDF's strategic target is for 20 year life extension for Sizewell B PWR, beyond the current accounting closure date of 2035.
The 'nuclear island' at Sizewell B is based on a Westinghouse '4-loop' plant known as SNUPPS (Standard Nuclear Unit Power Plant System) initially designed in the 1970s and used at Wolf Creek and Callaway but with additional redundancy and diversity in the safety systems, and other modifications such as the addition of a passive Emergency Boration System. The containment design was not based on SNUPPS however, but was designed by NNC (National Nuclear Corporation - bought by AMEC in 2005) in conjunction with Bechtel.
The Wolf Creek and Callaway plants each have single half speed, 1,800 RPM (60 Hz), steam turbine-alternator sets which use the steam produced from the heat generated in the reactor to produce about 1,200 MW of electricity at the US grid frequency of 60 Hz. Such large turbo-alternator sets were not available in the UK at the time Sizewell B was designed. So that orders could be given to UK manufacturers, and to avoid project risk in dealing with what were at the time newly designed very large turbo-alternator sets, Sizewell B uses two full-speed, 3,000 RPM (50 Hz), nominal 660 MW turbo-alternator sets similar to those used at Drax coal-fired power station, and at the last of the AGRs Heysham 2, but adapted to cope with the wetter steam conditions produced by the PWR steam supply system. PWR steam supply systems produce saturated steam at lower temperature and pressure than the dry superheated steam produced by AGR reactors or coal-fired power stations, and the high- and intermediate-pressure stages of the steam turbines have to be designed cope with this Sizewell B can run at half power using one turbo-alternator.
The major components were supplied by:Reactor System: Westinghouse
Reactor Vessel: Framatome (main shell: Japan Steel Works, domes and other components: Le Creusot Forge)
Core Internals: Westinghouse
Steam Raising: Doosan Babcock
Turbines: GEC Alsthom
Civil works: Laing
A distinctive white hemisphere envelopes the outer shell of the twin-walled Containment building that protects the pressurised water reactor and its steam generators.
First announced in 1969 as an advanced gas-cooled reactor (AGR) based power station, and then in 1974 as a steam-generating heavy water reactor (SGHWR), Sizewell B was eventually announced as a PWR power station in 1980. The initial design submissions to the CEGB and NII were based on the design of the Trojan plant at Portland, Oregon. Designed by Westinghouse, construction of Trojan began in 1970 and was completed in 1975. Westinghouse continued to develop the design they had used for the Trojan plant into the SNUPPS design, built first at Callaway, and SNUPPS was adopted as the basis for the design approved by the CEGB in October 1981.
Before construction commenced, the design of Sizewell B was subjected to a detailed safety review by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII), and a lengthy public inquiry. The Pre-Construction Safety Case was submitted to the NII in August 1981. The public inquiry was held between 1982 and 1985, and took over 16 million words of evidence, a record at the time. The chairman of the inquiry, Sir Frank Layfield, reported in early 1987 that, subject to a satisfactory safety case, there were no substantive reasons why the project should not proceed. The Nuclear Installations Inspectorate accepted the Pre-Construction Safety Case and issued a licence to proceed with construction in August 1987.
Sizewell B was calculated to be economically viable at a 5% discount rate and was approved financially on that basis. The project was managed by the CEGB Sizewell B Project Management Team, which declared that it was completed on time and to budget, the final out-turn cost being £2,030 million. A 2000 post-startup evaluation estimated generating cost at around 6p/kWh (1.7p/MJ), excluding first-of-kind costs but using an 8% discount rate for the cost of capital, or about 8p/kWh (2.2p/MJ) including first-of-kind costs.
Sizewell B was built and commissioned between 1987 and 1995, and first synchronised with the National Grid on 14 Feb 1995.
The original rating was for a thermal power of 3,444 MW and gross electrical output of 1,250 MW, which after house load of 62 MW gave a net output to the grid of 1,188 MWe, equivalent to 8.7 TWh (31 PJ) in the year of 2005. It was uprated by 1% in 2013 with a thermal power of 3479 MW and an electrical output of 1,195 MWe, though this is dependent on seawater temperature.
As with many other PWRs, Sizewell B operates on an 18-month operating cycle, i.e. at or near 100% output continuously for around 18 months, followed by a month's shutdown for maintenance and refuelling. Sizewell B was designed for a commercial life of 40 years (i.e. to around 2035) but similar stations elsewhere have been granted extensions to 60 years.
On 27 May 2008 Sizewell B had an unplanned shutdown, cutting off its supply to the National Grid. A British Energy spokesman said that the fault involved conventional equipment at the plant rather than any part of the nuclear reactor.
On 17 March 2010 Sizewell B was taken offline for an extended period because of high moisture levels in the containment building due to a pressuriser electrical heater fault, requiring difficult repairs. On 2 July 2010 just before 21:00, while still offline, a minor fire broke out on the second floor of the building housing the charcoal adsorber at Sizewell B. Numerous emergency services were called to the scene and the fire was brought under control by 3:30 the following day when the charcoal adsorber was flooded.
On 2 March 2012 Sizewell B had an unplanned shutdown due to an electrical fault. One and a half weeks later it was restarted at half capacity. As of June 2012, Sizewell B is under carefully controlled operation.
In 2013 a new remote Emergency Response Centre was inaugurated near the power station, following recommendations made after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. The centre provides remote controls and a back-up plant.
In January 2014 the building of a dry spent nuclear fuel store began. The existing spent fuel pool, which stores spent fuel under water, was expected to reach full capacity in 2015. In April 2016 the store was inaugurated. This will enable spent nuclear fuel produced from autumn 2016 until at least 2035 to be stored until a deep geological repository is available.
Since the sale of British Energy to Électricité de France (EDF) in February 2009, plans for a further twin-unit reactor to be built at Sizewell have looked increasingly likely. Sizewell already has a connection agreement in place for a new nuclear power plant to be built. The government revealed that the 1,600 MW projected units, to be called Sizewell C, would, together with the planned units at Hinkley Point C, contribute 13% of UK electricity in the early 2020s. EDF plans to use Areva's EPR design for any new-build reactors in the UK, this being the design of reactors currently being built in Finland, France and China. EDF have stated that the construction for Sizewell C is dependent on Hinkley C approval.
On 18 October 2010 the British government announced that Sizewell was one of the eight sites which it considered suitable for future nuclear power stations.
As of 2014 EDF Energy has not published a schedule for applying for planning permission.
On 21 October 2015, it was reported that Britain and China had reached Strategic Investment Agreements for three nuclear power plants, including one at Sizewell, though no specific financing plans for Sizewell are agreed. As of 2016, the second stage of the Sizewell C consultation is yet to take place. The final investment decision for Sizewell C is only likely to take place after the Hinkley Point C build has started.