Sizewell: Boost for power plant bid as minister hints at nuclear deal

Sizewell C plans

Sizewell C plans - Credit: Copyright EDF Energy 2012 - Stag

Uncertainty over the prospect of a third power station ever being built on the Suffolk coast may have been alleviated by news that a deal to build the first of the UK’s new nuclear sites could be just weeks away.

A lengthy period of deadlock between the Government and developer EDF Energy over the guaranteed price of electricity generated at the firm’s proposed plant in the South West had led to speculation about the future of Sizewell C.

But reports that the impasse appeared to have been overcome, and that ministers were working to close a deal with EDF to build a reactor at Hinkley Point in Somerset, have come as a relief to supporters of the Sizewell bid.

Government approval was granted in March to build the first in a planned suite of new nuclear sites - but indecision over the guaranteed “strike price” for Hinkley C meant possible delays to progress at Sizewell.

In April, French firm EDF announced it would be “refocusing its activities” in order to control costs at Hinkley Point, leading South Suffolk and Energy Select Committee chairman MP Tim Yeo to stress the urgency of a deal being struck.

But, following energy minister Michael Fallon’s comments yesterday, that he hoped a contract would be agreed on the £14bn project “in the next few weeks”, Mr Yeo could not conceal his relief. He said: “I’m very pleased that things are moving on. Negotiations have been dragging along. We were hoping this thing would be settled before last Christmas.

“I have kept in close touch with the issue and I hope we can have this confirmed as soon as possible. At least a potential deal at Hinkley means we can start to plan for Sizewell.”

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Mr Yeo also joined critics of Labour leader Ed Miliband’s plan to freeze energy bills for every home and business if he gains power at the 2015 election. The pledge led to opponents predicting a collapse in energy investment and fears of a possible blackout - concerns echoed by Mr Yeo, who said: “We all understand a rise in energy prices is a problem for domestic consumers and an issue for business with a high level of consumption. I don’t, however, think this is the right way to deal with it. There is a danger some investors will go elsewhere, risking the possibility of an energy crisis or even a blackout.

“We need new investment between now and the next election, otherwise we face a genuine threat to our energy supply.”

Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey, whose constituency includes Sizewell, also welcomed the news. She said: “I am delighted that a deal on the ‘strike price’ for Hinkley, which is vital for the go-ahead at Sizewell, seems to be close so we can unlock the jobs and investment that it will bring to Suffolk. The Government have been working hard on negotiations with EDF to get the best deal possible for bill payers and taxpayers.”

EDF, which had hoped to sew up negotiations for Hinkley C by the end of last year, said it was still in talks with the Government but did not wish to comment further.

Initial proposals for a new nuclear power station to the north of Sizewell B power station were published in November 2012. The first stage of public consultation ran until February 6 this year. EDF is expected to hold a second stage of consultation in 2014.