Suffolk: Sizewell C project could be put at risk by slow progress on pioneering project, experts warn

An artist's impression of what Sizewell C could look like

An artist's impression of what Sizewell C could look like - Credit: Copyright EDF Energy 2012 - Stag

SLOW progress in negotiations between the Government and power giant EDF could cause plans to build a nuclear plant on the Suffolk coast to come crashing down, experts fear.

Eighteen leading nuclear scientists have co-signed a letter that says proposals to establish five new plants by 2030 – including Sizewell C – could be scuppered by a lack of progress on the first of the projects.

The statement, which was sent to The Sunday Telegraph, says a “fleet” of new power stations would lead to “considerable economies of scale and lower costs for consumers” as well as providing urgently needed low-carbon energy.

However they claim the apparent stalling of talks with EDF Energy over its Hinkley Point C power station in Somerset “undermines” such ambition and could deter investors.

The group, which includes Professor Sir David King, a former chief scientific adviser to the Government and Professor David Cope, warns it is “increasingly concerned at the apparent slow progress of negotiations”.

Discussions over the “strike price” - the rate for electricity from the plant which will be fixed for 30 years and subsidised by levies on household energy bills - and EDF’s continued focus on Hinkley has already been heavily scrutinised in Suffolk.

Last month Guy McGregor, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for roads and transport, said he feared Sizewell’s issues might be subject to “last minute negotiations” as EDF concentrate their efforts on Somerset.

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The project is also seen as a major source of jobs, with predictions that the building of two reactors will generate 25,000 positions throughout its lifetime. It was estimated last year that Sizewell C will be worth £100m a year to the local economy while it is being built and £40m a year thereafter.

Tim Yeo, head of the Commons energy and climate change select committee and MP for Suffolk South, told the Sunday Telegraph he feared a delay would lead to an exodus of nuclear experts.

He added: “There are a significant number of jobs [at stake]. We need to rekindle this industry if we are not to lose the skills we have in the nuclear energy sector.”

But Therese Coffey, MP for Suffolk Coastal, said fears about the viability of other plants is “premature”.

She added: “This is an important negotiation for both sides, one is negotiating for taxpayers and EDF is negotiating so they get a return on their investment. I’m confident a deal will be done, but we shouldn’t be surprised that it’s taking some time because of the amount of money involved. It is also the first of these to get negotiated, so we shouldn’t be surprised that it takes a bit more time than perhaps originally hoped.”

Dr Coffey said she was confident that Lord Deighton, Commercial Secretary to the Treasury will get the balance right and added that both sides will want a swift conclusion.

She added: “I know this is only for Hinkley but it’s important that it gets done. We’re still in middle of planning process, so it is important that this works.

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