Top-level talks on funding for Sizewell C but no green light yet
- Credit: MIKE PAGE/EDF ENERGY/RACHEL EDGE
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has backed a nuclear power future for Britain as part of his green industrial revolution – but failed to give the green light to the Suffolk project as some had been anticipating, or even mention it specifically.
Campaigners said opposition was “strong and growing” and the government’s financial commitment to nuclear was a “drop in the ocean” compared with Sizewell C’s cost.
Mr Johnson said £525 million would be earmarked to help develop “large and smaller-scale nuclear plants”, and research and develop new advanced modular reactors. This could support 10,000 jobs in total.
Sizewell C managing director Humphrey Cadoux-Hudson said “Sizewell C is the only large scale nuclear project ready to begin construction. It will deliver the always-on low-carbon power Britain needs.
“Sizewell C will be a great British project: It will copy the UK-adapted design being built at Hinkley Point C, with 70% of the value of engineering and construction contracts going to suppliers based in this country, and can be majority owned by British investors. When it gets the go-ahead, it will create thousands of jobs.
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“Sizewell C builds on the great progress being made by UK nuclear at Hinkley Point C and, as a direct copy, it can benefit from lower construction and financing costs.
“We look forward to moving ahead quickly with the Government on an innovative funding arrangement to achieve best value for money for consumers.”
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Alison Downes, from Stop Sizewell C, said: “Despite heavy briefing by EDF and the nuclear industry, the Prime Minister’s 10 Point Plan has not yet given a green light to Sizewell C, nor any suggestion on how it might be funded.
“The pledge of £525m to be split between large, small and advanced reactors is a drop in the ocean compared to the £20billion cost of Sizewell C.
“Of course, we continue to wait for the Energy White Paper, but Sizewell C remains a ridiculously expensive project that won’t contribute to net zero until at least 2040, won’t help ‘level up’ the UK and threatens RSPB Minsmere. Quite simply, Sizewell C has no place in a truly green recovery and there is still time for the government to realise this.”
Charles Macdowell, also from Stop Sizewell C, added: “If EDF were hoping the Prime Minister’s announcement would give the go-ahead to Sizewell C, they will be sorely disappointed.
“Even with the PM’s restatement of his support for nuclear energy, history has shown that it isn’t easy to deliver on political promises to build such projects. Nuclear may be the third point in the PM’s plan but it is neither green nor clean.”
EDF says Sizewell C – if given the go-ahead – could be contrubuting to net zero by the early 2030s and woudl continue to do so as electricity demand increases substantially due to electrification of heat, transport and industry – roughly doubling from today’s level.
Together Against Sizewell C (TASC) said the Prime Minister’s plan was “lacking imagination, ambition or vision” and called for a programme which commits to at least 80% power generated by renewables by 2030, mandatory solar panels on new homes and buildings, a comprehensive programme for retrofitting of buildings to make them more energy efficient, a scrapping of the National Grid and a more radical shake up of the way electricity is generated and distributes.
TASC chair and deputy chair of the Sizewell Stakeholder Group, Pete Wilkinson said: “Whatever you were hoping for in the statement, it’s likely that you’ll be disappointed. The Tory government has been in labour for years and has produced a mouse. An opportunity to show vision, imagination and to lay the groundwork for how it sees the ‘build back better’ programme unfold has been squandered.
“Large-scale nuclear can only mean Sizewell, Bradwell and possibly a revived interest in Wylfa, all of which, as Treasury knows only too well, will need funding from sources other than EdF which is hugely in debt and has admitted it does not have the funds to complete a £20bn Sizewell project.
“Support for small modular reactors (SMRs) offers a handout to Rolls Royce for the development of reactors which are untried, unlicenced and which will require complicated planning approvals if they are to be used close to centres of population to make use of their district heating potential from waste heat. It’s unlikely that communities will accept the generation of nuclear waste and live with the risk of a nuclear accident on a ‘local’ basis. SMRs are yet another attempt to throw a lifeline to the failing nuclear industry at the public’s expense and represent another nuclear expensive punt more in hope than expectation.
“We are pleased that, despite heavy lobbying by EDF and the nuclear industry cheerleaders, Sizewell C has not been given the green light but we are mindful of the fact that the government is yet to publish its energy White Paper. We call on the government to reject the nuclear option in that paper and to recognise that nuclear’s climate change credentials have time and again been roundly demonstrated to be greatly overstated. Even Secretaries of State continue to claim it is a ‘zero carbon’ source of electricity, which it is not.”