Government backs Sizewell C in Autumn Statement

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced the government’s decision to proceed with the Sizewell C nuclear power plant in his Autumn Statement yesterday.

Sizewell C, artist's impression
Sizewell C, artist's impression - EDF

He confirmed that the power station will create ‘10,000 highly skilled jobs and provide reliable, low carbon power to the equivalent of six million homes’ for at least 50 years, helping to free the UK from its dependence on volatile fossil fuel markets.

“Last year year nearly 40 per cent of our electricity came from offshore wind, solar and other renewable sources,” said chancellor Jeremy Hunt.

“Since 2010, our renewable energy production grew faster than any other large country in Europe. We need to go further, with a major acceleration of home-grown technologies like offshore wind, carbon capture and storage, and, above all, nuclear.”

Hunt said that contracts for the initial investment will be signed with relevant parties, including EDF, in the coming weeks subject to final government approvals.

In response to the chancellor’s statement, a spokesperson from Sizewell C said: “We are delighted the government has reaffirmed its commitment to Sizewell C and look forward to concluding negotiations in the coming weeks.

“The new power station will strengthen the UK’s energy security, lower costs for consumers and help Britain reach Net Zero. It will bring a big economic boost to Suffolk and create thousands of jobs and apprenticeships in nuclear supply chain companies up and down the country."  

Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, described Sizewell C as ‘one of the UK’s most important green infrastructure projects ever, critical to the government’s commitment to strengthen energy independence, cut gas use and bring down bills’.

“The UK now needs to urgently get on with building new nuclear plants alongside renewables to meet the targets set out in the Energy Security Strategy, and we look forward to Sizewell C contracts being signed in the next few weeks.

“This announcement also paves the way for the development of a pipeline of new nuclear projects, both large and small modular reactors, to deliver clean, reliable power for the British people.”

The UK has five generating nuclear power stations, providing around 16 per cent of the country’s electricity from 5.9GW of capacity. Two stations will retire by March 2024 and all but one will retire by March 2028.

Richard Robinson, CEO of Atkins, UK & Europe, commented: “Projects such as HS2 and Sizewell C will provide us with greater energy resiliency, greater connectivity and greater opportunities across the UK, and we welcome the decision to stick to long term commitments which will help deliver growth and give industry the confidence it needs to plan ahead and invest in people and skills.

“As our recent research confirmed, it is vital that we level up people as well as places, ensuring investment delivers improvements in infrastructure but also wider social value.”

A spokesperson for campaigning group Together Against Sizewell C criticised the government’s support of the new power plant, commenting: “This government’s myopic pursuit of nuclear power at any cost is borne out by its failure to use the Chancellor’s autumn statement to cancel the Sizewell C project, choosing instead to prop up France’s failing nuclear industry with £billions of UK taxpayer and bill payer money to be ploughed into French state owned EDF’s white elephant proposals for Sizewell C.”