Go-ahead for new nuclear power station

·6-min read

A multibillion-pound project to build a new nuclear power station has been given the go-ahead.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said development consent was granted for the Sizewell C project in Suffolk.

It is intended that Sizewell C will generate enough low-carbon electricity to supply six million homes.

The application was submitted to the Planning Inspectorate by NNB Nuclear Generation in May 2020 and accepted for examination the following month.

Sizewell C
An aerial view of the proposed site (PA)

The inspectorate’s chief executive, Sarah Richards, said: “The Planning Inspectorate has now examined more than 100 nationally significant infrastructure projects since the Planning Act 2008 process was introduced, ensuring local communities have had the opportunity of being involved in the examination of projects that may affect them.

“This examination took place during the Covid-19 pandemic and its associated restrictions, and the examining authority worked hard to ensure that local people, the local authorities – East Suffolk District and Suffolk County Council – and other interested parties were able to fully participate.

“The examining authority listened and gave full consideration to local views and the evidence gathered during the examination before making its recommendation.”

Carly Vince, Sizewell C’s Chief Planning Officer, said: “I am delighted that, after months of careful consideration, the Government has given planning consent for Sizewell C. It is a big endorsement of our proposals and supports our view that this is the right project in the right place.

“I would like to thank the thousands of people in East Suffolk who contributed to our consultation sessions and the public examination. The input of residents, local authorities, environmental groups and many others has helped us to improve our plans.

“We will continue to work closely with them to make sure we minimise the impacts of construction and maximise the huge opportunities for the area.

“Sizewell C will be good for the region, creating thousands of opportunities for local people and businesses. It will boost local biodiversity and leave a legacy Suffolk can be proud of.”

Negotiations with the Government on raising funds for the project are continuing and a Financial Investment Decision is expected in 2023.

Julia Pyke, Sizewell C’s Financing Director, said: “Energy costs will be lower with nuclear in the mix, so today’s decision is good news for bill-payers.

“The tried and tested funding arrangement we are proposing means that, by paying a small amount during construction, consumers will benefit in the long-term.

“Sizewell C will give a big boost to jobs and skills in nuclear supply chain companies across the country. It will strengthen the UK’s energy security and play a key role in our fight against climate change.

Planning approval brings us closer to delivering the huge benefits of this project to Suffolk and to the UK.”

Charlotte Childs, GMB national officer, said: “Sizewell C is essential for meeting our energy challenges. This is a vital step forward for energy security and net zero.

“The UK’s nuclear programme has been delayed too many times due to political decisions. We need further investment in nuclear to secure good jobs for the future.

“This project is essential for jobs and skills and hitting our environmental targets. It is clear – there can be no net zero without new nuclear.”

Sizewell B Nuclear Power Station in Suffolk
Sizewell B Nuclear Power Station in Suffolk (Fiona Hanson/PA)

A spokesman for campaign group Stop Sizewell C said:  “The wrong decision has been made but it’s not the end of our campaign.

“Not only will we be looking closely at appealing this decision, we’ll continue to challenge every aspect of Sizewell C, because, whether it is the impact on consumers, the massive costs and delays, the outstanding technical questions or the environmental impacts, it remains a bad project and a very bad risk.

“What’s left of Boris Johnson’s administration should desist from throwing any more cash at Sizewell C or making a Government Investment Decision.

“It’s deeply concerning, given that households will have to pay for this massively expensive project in times of such hardship, that no one in Government is prepared to come clean about how much it will cost to build.”

Greenpeace UK’s chief scientist, Dr Doug Parr, said: “The contrast between dynamic, cost-cutting and innovative technologies in the renewables sector and the limping behemoths of new nuclear power could barely be more striking.

“Sizewell C represents all that’s been wrong about energy policy. A nuclear company, saddled with problems – from failing reactors to having to be nationalised – is getting a stitched-up deal behind closed doors leading to extra costs on energy bills, unmanageable waste for future generations and an expensive white elephant project.

“That it’s trashing an important nature reserve is an unwanted bonus.

“Rather than wasting time and money on this red herring energy solution, the Government should throw everything at making cheaper, cleaner and more reliable renewables the backbone of our energy system.

“Whatever else is going on in UK politics at the moment, there’s no sign of a fresh start here.”

Senior deputy general secretary of Prospect union Sue Ferns said: “We now need the Government to bring forward its investment decision as a matter of urgency so the project can progress.

“Approving the funding for Sizewell C will send a firm signal to investors that the Government is committed to new nuclear delivering energy security and taking us to Net Zero.

“This week’s extreme temperatures have shown that we cannot afford to delay decarbonising our energy supply.”

Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, said: “This is a huge step forward for Britain’s energy security and net zero ambitions.

“Sizewell C will provide reliable low-carbon power for more than 80 years, cutting gas use, creating thousands of high-quality, skilled jobs, and long-term investment and opportunity up and down the country.

“Sizewell C will be one of the UK’s largest ever green energy projects, and this decision significantly strengthens the pipeline of new nuclear capacity in Britain.”

Beccy Speight, chief executive of the RSPB, said the charity was “extremely disappointed” at the approval of the power plant that would affect its nature reserve at Minsmere in Suffolk, and which went against the advice of Government experts.

She said: “The construction of the proposed development will be damaging and it has been granted with insufficient consideration for the effects on nature as described by the Government’s own experts.”

“This is a ludicrous decision for an interim government to make,” she continued, adding that the RSPB would be considering its options in response to the decision.

Simon Coop, Unite national officer, said: “This project is an important addition to the UK’s ambition to have a mixed energy economy and it should have been agreed long ago.

“But it can only be half a clap at the moment because we are still no further forward on the Government’s investment decision. This is needed to signal to the sector that the Government’s commitment to this project is rock-solid.”

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