Government backs more nuclear power - what's the view in Suffolk?
- Credit: Archant
The Government’s much-anticipated energy strategy and support for new nuclear has received a mixed reaction - with some highlighting the "huge opportunities" for Suffolk, but others branding it a mistake.
On Wednesday, ministers announced the long-awaited strategy, which aims to make 95% of electricity low carbon by 2030 with an acceleration of homegrown power in Britain, including the expansion of nuclear, wind, solar, and hydrogen.
As part of this long-term plan, the operational life of the Sizewell B nuclear power station on the Suffolk coast could be extended by 20 years to 2055.
The Government is also in negotiations with the developer, energy giant EDF, on whether to build a new Sizewell C nuclear power station, in which it is reportedly set to buy a 20% stake. It still requires planning permission.
Richard Rout, cabinet member for finance and environment at Suffolk County Council, said: “The council recognises that consent for Sizewell C, and the life extension of Sizewell B, would make this the leading operational nuclear cluster in the UK, with three operational reactors.
"So we will continue to make the case to both government and developers that any proposals for Suffolk must maximise the economic opportunities for our county whilst minimising the impact on our communities and unique natural environment.”
But the opposition Green, Liberal Democrat and Independent group says nuclear should not be a part of the plan.
Annette Dunning, group spokeswoman for achieving net zero, said: “The Government should not be investing in Sizewell C, nor should it extend the life of Sizewell B.
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“The money the Government want to invest in nuclear can be easily matched through other forms of clean, renewable energy.
“The price of nuclear power is double that of renewable energy. Overrun costs and huge capital demand means its prices will now always be higher than cleaner alternatives."
Craig Rivett, deputy leader and cabinet member for economic development at East Suffolk Council, said: “We await a final decision on extending the operational life of Sizewell B, but we recognise that an extension would, of course, be followed by continued annual benefit to the local economy and employment of local people.
“While the final decision on Sizewell C lies with the government, as a key consultee, it remained a key priority for East Suffolk Council to seek the best possible outcomes for our communities.
“We would now like to see a continued effort by the Government and energy industry to ensure that Suffolk communities benefit from a coordinated approach to projects, working towards the dual benefits of achieving lower energy prices and our ultimate aim of net zero emissions.”
Ashley Shorey-Mills, head of Sizewell C supply chain engagement at the Suffolk Chamber, said: “This is good news for both Suffolk and the region’s business community, where projects such as Sizewell C will see huge investment and opportunity afforded to our local supply chain."
He hailed the mix of energy solutions on the East Anglian coastline, including the offshore wind sector, which will be 50% of the UK’s total offshore capacity, while Sizewell B and C could provide 10% of the UK’s energy.
“The legacy of skills, opportunities and growth are something the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce will look to ensure is felt across the whole of our county,” Mr Shorey-Mills added.
However, campaign group Together Against Sizewell C (TASC) has criticised the promotion of nuclear power.
A TASC spokesperson said: “He (Boris Johnson) conveniently ignores the fact that removing reliance on Russian gas and oil will be replaced by longer-term reliance on the West importing increased amounts of uranium from Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, so while trumpeting how the expansion of the domestic nuclear programme will remove us from the fire of Putin’s oil and gas supplies, it forces us to jump into the frying pan of reliance on Russian-controlled uranium fuel.”
Alison Downes, of Stop Sizewell C, questioned the wisdom of developing new nuclear power stations that could take years to come to fruition due to planning rules and also warned the fuel will come from Russia.
She said the estimated cost of £20bn was two years old and was likely to have increased due to extra costs associated with the development.
Friends of the Earth energy campaigner Danny Gross called for a focus on renewables and for the Government to fund a council-led, street-by-street insulation programme.
He added: “We have been here before, with eight nuclear sites announced in 2010. Over a decade on, the only one under construction is seriously behind schedule and over budget, with a price far above current renewables."