Exclusive: Government to fund new nuclear power station as part of Net Zero drive

·3-min read
The Sizewell B nuclear power plant in Suffolk. Proposals for a new plant, Sizewell C, are said to be the frontrunner to gain government funding
The Sizewell B nuclear power plant in Suffolk. Proposals for a new plant, Sizewell C, are said to be the frontrunner to gain government funding

Funding for a new nuclear power plant will be announced before the 2024 election, the Government will vow this week as it reveals plans to lower carbon emissions.

The Telegraph understands a promise to agree financing for the new plant during the current parliament will be included in the Government’s long-awaited Net Zero strategy.

The document, said to be more than 150 pages long, will detail how Boris Johnson plans to hit his pledge to bring the UK’s carbon emissions down to “net zero” by the year 2050.

It will cover everything from shifting away from polluting cars to adopting greener heating in homes and precedes next month’s Cop26 United Nations climate conference in Glasgow.

According to government insiders, the front-runner site to win the funding is Sizewell C, a nuclear power plant being proposed by EDF Energy for Suffolk.

If approved, Sizewell C would supply around six million homes with low carbon energy for around 60 years, according to EDF Energy - though critics question if it offers value for money.

Recommitting to announcing new funding by the end of this parliament would mean that a decision must be taken before May 2024, the latest point the general election can be held.

Government financing could take the form of guaranteed fixed price for each unit of energy produced at the site - as happened with Hinkley Point - rather than only direct investment.

A government spokesman said: “Nuclear power has a key role to play as we work to build a strong, home-grown energy sector to further reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and exposure to volatile global gas prices.

“We are seeking to approve at least one more large-scale nuclear project in the next few years to strengthen energy security and create thousands of jobs.”

The push to fund a new nuclear power plant is only one strand of the renewed focus inside the Government at growing Britain’s nuclear industry.

Boris Johnson is understood to view the lack of expansion in the UK civil nuclear industry over the past decade as regrettable.

The Prime Minister named “advancing nuclear as a clean energy source” as one of the 10 points in his “green industrial revolution” plan published in November 2020.

For years, there has been an interest within the Government about funding the next generation of nuclear power technology, specifically small modular reactors.

Mr Johnson’s Government has been holding talks with Rolls-Royce about taxpayer money going to help the company’s push towards such technology.

However, it is understood there is frustration within parts of Downing Street that the company has not moved at a quicker pace on the project.

Some £385 million is already available from the Government through the “Advanced Nuclear Fund”, with up to £215 million set to be spent on smaller-scale power plant technology.

Discussions about nuclear power have been complicated by the involvement of Chinese companies in the construction of plants within the UK in the past. In the last half decade, the mood in Parliament and within the Government has become more critical of Beijing’s increasing economic might and influence on the world stage.

Critics have questioned the involvement of the Chinese state-owned China General Nuclear Power Group in building Hinkley Point C, the plant in Somerset that was approved in 2016.

The Net Zero strategy is one of several government announcements on energy and climate change targets expected in the next fortnight.

Another document set to be published shortly is the Heat and Buildings Strategy, which is expected to ban the sale of new gas boilers by 2035 and urge the use of heat pumps instead.

Cop26 is seen as a major international test of Mr Johnson’s leadership. It lasts for a fortnight, starting at the end of this month, with world leaders attending the opening days.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting