Sizewell C nuclear power plant in Suffolk has been given the go ahead.
The government has taken a 50% stake in the project, matched by state-owned French energy giant EDF.
It is anticipated that the plant, based on the Suffolk coast between Aldeburgh and Southwold, will create thousands of skilled jobs and produce enough low carbon electricity to power around 6m homes for over 50 years. It will be a replica of Hinkley Point C, currently being built in Somerset.
The UK government is investing £700m while EDF seeks third party investment to finance construction and operation, with overall costs predicted to be upwards of £20bn.
Work is expected to start some time within the next two years and take up to 12 years to complete.
The announcement follows approval of the Development Consent Order in the summer, and the introduction of new financing legislation for nuclear projects in March.
Business Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed the Government’s stake in Sizewell C was the first step on the ladder to long-term energy independence, saying: “Global gas prices are at record highs, caused by Putin’s illegal march on Ukraine. We need more clean, affordable power generated within our borders – British energy for British homes.
“The historic deal giving government backing to Sizewell C’s development is crucial to this, moving us towards greater energy independence and away from the risks that a reliance on volatile global energy markets for our supply comes with.”
Boris Johnson had previously backed Sizewell C during his time as Prime Minister – a move that has now been cemented by Rishi Sunak. It represents a big step forward in the UK’s plan to achieve energy independence and find reliable homegrown sources of clean affordable energy.
A Chinese nuclear energy company was initially earmarked as development partner. However, deteriorating relations between the UK and China have led to the government citing national security concerns to block Chinese investment in infrastructure and step in as project partner instead.
Sizewell C will be built next to Sizewell B which has been operating since 1995. According to EDF, nuclear provides energy based on a fraction of the land used for wind or solar. The proposed 3.2 gigawatt power station will be set on around 33 hectares and provide low-carbon energy which isn’t reliant on the weather.
Simone Rossi, CEO of EDF Energy said: “This is a big vote of confidence in Sizewell C and we are very excited the government is partnering with us to prepare the project for further investment. Sizewell C will build on the achievements of Hinkley Point C and replicating its design will provide more certainty over schedule and costs.
“It will deliver another big boost to jobs and skills in the nuclear industry and provide huge new opportunities for communities in Suffolk. New nuclear will protect Britain from volatile global gas markets and help keep bills under control for the country’s homes and businesses.”
EDF also claims a ‘great track record’ in protecting biodiversity around the existing plant and said it will not be building on any land owned by the RSPCA.
The whole coast is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and work has already begun on compensatory wetland habitat for marsh birds. Spokesperson Stephen Mannings said: “This latest wetland is being created to help mitigate potential impacts on marsh harriers during construction of Sizewell C.
“However, the wetland which will be retained on a permanent basis will also benefit a wide range of other rare and notable species, including water vole, otter, frogs, toads, grass snakes and a variety of other wetland birds including sedge warbler, bearded tit and kingfisher.”