Gas price crisis ‘makes case for new nuclear plant’ says Sizewell C boss
- Credit: Tony Pick
The gas price crisis has strengthened the case for a proposed Sizewell C power plant, a nuclear boss believes.
Bosses at EDF Energy — who are behind the Sizewell project — say new nuclear would provide a stable base for a low CO2 UK energy mix for the future, alongside wind, solar and green hydrogen — helping to wean the country off carbon-emitting gas.
Provided things go to schedule, a final decision on controversial plans to build a new nuclear plant near Leiston is expected in mid-April 2022 when business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng gives his verdict.
Speaking at an event at Lowestoft’s East Coast College to promote the plant’s potential role in the town’s regeneration, Sizewell C managing director Humphrey Cadoux Hudson said the current crisis highlighted the problem with the current UK energy mix.
“We are dependent on gas and we can see when the gas price goes up we are all in trouble,” he said. “But gas produces CO2.”
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He was “unembarrassed” that “we have to have nuclear”, he said. “At the moment we have been suffering from low wind speeds,” he said. “If you don’t have wind in the UK at the moment you need gas and gas is short so I think it’s a really strong argument for a diverse energy supply.”
Government ministers have been scrambling to avert a winter energy and food supply chain meltdown — as a host of suppliers go to the wall after the energy market is rocked by huge rises in global wholesale gas prices.
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They had to deny being complacent over 18-month-old warnings about risks to the UK’s energy supply as 1.5m people find themselves without a provider.
“I think the current environment we are in is a very clear demonstration of things we have been modelling,” said Mr Cadoux Hudson.
But campaigners against the new nuclear project are unconvinced.
Alison Downes of Stop Sizewell C said: “Sizewell C is far too slow to answer the current energy crisis, and the high risk and increasing cost contrast with the rapid pace of green innovation and tumbling price of renewables.
“Given rising evidence that Sizewell C would be obsolete by the time it was built, and growing concern about consumers paying towards its construction, the government should divert policy support and funds to more renewables, storage, clean heat and energy efficiency.”
Although a decision on the plant could potentially be made within months, Mr Cadoux Hudson was adopting a patient approach 12 years into his new nuclear journey.
“We just have to build up step by step. There are a lot of things to get through. We have still a long distance to go on the planning and putting the finance in place but I have always been optimistic,” he said.
The examination of the planning application is due to finish on October 14 this year and the Planning Inspectorate is due to send its recommendation to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) three months later. Mr Kwarteng has three months to look at it and is then expected to deliver a verdict.