Step forward for Sizewell C as legislation passes another hurdle

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 / SIZEWELL C

Proposed legislation to fund the Sizewell C nuclear power station has taken another step forward - with MPs being told nuclear energy could reduce the UK's "exposure to volatile global gas prices".

But business minister Greg Hands also faced warnings of the "toxic legacy" that building new nuclear power stations would have in the UK for "future generations", as he promoted the Nuclear Energy (Financing) Bill.

The Bill, which aims to allow pension funds and other institutional investors to provide cash for nuclear power stations through a regulated asset base funding (RAB) model, passed its second reading by 319 votes to 44, majority 275.

The proposals, which will undergo further scrutiny at a later date, would also see consumers pay towards the cost of new nuclear power stations during construction through their bills.

Mr Hands told the Commons: "Nuclear is part of a low-cost future electricity system. Nuclear helps to reduce our exposure to volatile global gas prices. The measures in this Bill mean we can keep nuclear in the mix at a lower cost than would otherwise be the case."

Mr Hands said the funding model would add less than £1 per month during the construction phase for the average household energy bill, while reducing reliance on overseas developers for financing.

He told the Commons a project starting construction in 2023 would add "only a very small amount to the average dual-fuel household bill during this Parliament, on average less than £1 per month during the full construction phase of the project."

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He said: "This new funding model will reduce our reliance on overseas developers for financing new nuclear projects. It will substantially increase the pool of potential private investors to include British pension funds, insurers and other institutional investors."

Liberal Democrat business spokeswoman Sarah Olney urged the Government to think about the "considerable downsides of nuclear waste".

She spoke about a visit to the former nuclear power station at Sellafield last year, saying: "I found it so eye-opening about the consequences of dealing with nuclear waste.

"What is still the considerable time and effort and money that is being spent now disposing of nuclear waste that was generated in the 1970s before I was born.

"That for me was just extraordinary and it really brought home to me the absolutely toxic legacy, literally toxic legacy, we are leaving for future generations when we create nuclear waste."

A spokesperson for Sizewell C said: "This legislation is a big step forward and will allow us to fund Sizewell C so that it delivers reliable low carbon nuclear power at a lower cost to consumers.

"With the appropriate consents in place, Sizewell C will be ready to begin construction in this Parliament. It is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create thousands of jobs and training opportunities in East Suffolk.

"Building on the success of Hinkley Point C, it will also deliver another big boost to thousands of supply chain companies up and down the country. 70% of the construction value will go to British companies and the legislation means Sizewell C could be majority owned by British investors.

"Sizewell C will provide home-grown low carbon electricity to six million households and will help to reduce our reliance on energy imports. It will play a key role in helping the UK achieve net zero."

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