Government signals support for Sizewell C by seeking stake in project

How Sizewell C with its twin reactors could look alongside plants A and B on Suffolk's coast

How Sizewell C with its twin reactors could look alongside plants A and B on Suffolk's coast - Credit: EDF Energy

Proposals to build a new nuclear power station on the Suffolk coast at Sizewell have taken a significant step forward as the government confirmed it is seeking to invest in the project. 

It has said it will start talks with EDF Energy over investing in the power station - although a final decision on whether it can go ahead is still some way away, and subject to planning approval.

The government statement said the negotiations were part of its "options to enable investment in at least one nuclear power station by the end of this Parliament"

The energy giant is currently applying for planning permission for the 3.2-gigawatt plant, which could create thousands of new jobs during construction and operation if given the go-ahead.

However the proposal has prompted widespread local concern because of proposals to use large areas of environmentally-sensitive land which is part of the eco-system with the Minsmere Nature Reserve at its heart.

The government has also warned that it will have to be convinced about the economic benefits of the project.

In a statement, which also set out its Energy White Paper, the Government said: "This is the next step in considering the Sizewell C project, and negotiations will be subject to reaching a value-for-money deal and all other relevant approvals, before any final decision is taken on whether to proceed.

"The successful conclusion of these negotiations will be subject to thorough scrutiny and needs to satisfy the Government's robust legal, regulatory and national security requirements."

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Humphrey Cadoux-Hudson, EDF Energy's Managing Director, Nuclear Development: "We are eager to start discussions with the Government on a suitable financing model for the project and we look forward to the next phase of scrutiny of our plans by the Planning Inspectorate.

"Sizewell C will build on the great progress being made at Hinkley Point C and, as a copy, will benefit from lower construction and financing costs. We are confident that we can arrive at a funding solution which will provide value for money and help to lower energy bills for consumers."

The proposals have already sparked widespread concern among local politicians with MPs Dr Therese Coffey and Dr Dan Poulter and both Suffolk County Council and East Suffolk Council saying they have major worries about the plans for the station - even though they are not opposed in principal to the aims of the project.

Alison Downes of Stop Sizewell C

Alison Downes from the Stop Sizewell C campaign. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Alison Downes from the Stop Sizewell C Campaign did not feel Monday's announcement was particularly significant: "We have known the government is in talks about this, but this does not take things forward.

"They are talking about whether they should take a small stake in the project - but there is still a very long way to go before any final permission is given. From that point of view I don't think this changes things at all."

Terry Baxter and Sizewell C

Terry Baxter from Inspire Suffolk believes Sizewell C would be good for the county. - Credit: SIZEWELL C/NICOLE DRURY

But Terry Baxter, chief executive of Inspire Suffolk and a keen backer of the project, felt it was very significant: "This is the largest infrastructure project proposed for East Anglia and the government wants to show its support by investing in it.

"That will be very good for jobs in the area - giving real hope to people and families who need good, well-paid, work right here in Suffolk."

Suffolk County Council has major concerns about the Sizewell C's impact on the area - and is unable to support its application.

Cabinet Member for the Environment, Richard Rout, said: “To make Sizewell C work for Suffolk, we believe there remains a great deal of work that EDF needs to undertake at this point to resolve a number of outstanding issues that have been raised by the council and the wider community.  

"The potential changes to the application that EDF is currently consulting on starts to address some of these, but more work is needed - particularly around the impact on Suffolk’s unique natural environment."

Suffolk Coastal MP Dr Therese Coffey welcomed the news about the talks - although she does have concerns about the environmental impact of the energy industry in her constituency.

She said: “Tacking climate change is one of the top priorities for this Government. We were the first G7 country to legislate for net zero and today’s plan establishes a permanent shift away from our dependence on fossil fuels.”

“As part of that process, I’m delighted that the government will now enter into negotiations with EDF about advancing the Sizewell C project, which is not just important for the UK’s future energy supply but will create thousands of local jobs, including well-paid, long term jobs. In the month that EDF have made positive changes to their planning application this is especially welcome.

“The Energy White Paper also gives us the opportunity to create a more coordinated and integrated approach to how offshore energy firms bring their electricity back onshore to the national grid and how the planning system deals with that. This is an issue we’ve been wrestling with locally with SPR’s proposals for substations at Friston.

"The Offshore Transmission Network Review is starting to deal with this but further regulatory change is required – which I and other colleagues will continue to lobby for.”

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