D-BEIS secretary of state Grant Shapps today confirmed the government’s approval for – and £679 million underpinning of – the 3.2GW Sizewell C nuclear plant to be built by EDF and partners on the Suffolk coast.
Britain’s biggest nuclear project for thirty years to receive a taxpayer-funded subsidy is the centrepiece of ministers’ commitment to prime a pipeline of smaller nuclear projects. Great British Nuclear, a new arms-length umbrella organisation, will be set up to supervise them. A further announcement is expected early in 2023.
‘The Snape of You’: Suffolk’s biggest thing since Ed Sheeran
Ministers were at pains today to present Sizewell C’s final approval as a step towards securing Britain’s energy independence, albeit with cash support from the government.
The venture near Saxmundham is predicted to create up to 10,000 temporary construction jobs, and employ 900 more full-time. When completed – at a date unconfirmed in today’s announcement – it is slated to provide power for 6 million homes over its 50 year working life.
The exit from Sizewell C by Chinese nuclear engineers CGN, holders of 20% of the project and participants in the £26 billion Hinkley C plant, is confirmed in today’s statement. The British state and French-backed engineer-operators EDF will each take half stakes in developing & operating the megaproject.
Ministers including previous energy secretary Kwarme Kwarteng in January had held out the prospect of £100 million in state guarantees, as an inducement for private investors to supplant Beijing’s state-controlled engineers.
The Biden administration and Conservative ‘hawks’ had voiced disquiet about China’s involvement in strategic UK infrastructure including nuclear and 5G telecoms. Premier Sunak last night signalled a new “robust pragmatism” towards Beijing, in his first speech last night on foreign policy.
Shapp’s Energy Security Bill, now before Parliament, was presented today by Conservatives as seizing a once-in-a-generation opportunity to shield Britain from global forces and secure clean energy for future generations.
It enshrines government intentions to cut power demand by 15% before 2030, largely on the back of energy efficiency measures such as yesterday’s ECO+ announcement.
“Global gas prices are at record highs, caused by Putin’s illegal march on Ukraine”, said Shapps. “We need more clean, affordable power generated within our borders – British energy for British homes.
“Today’s historic deal giving Government backing to Sizewell C’s development is crucial to this, moving us towards greater energy independence and away from the risks that a reliance on volatile global energy markets for our supply comes with.
EDF’s UK head Simone Rossi enthused: “This is a big vote of confidence in Sizewell C. We are very excited the Government is partnering with us to prepare the project for further investment.
“Sizewell C will build on the achievements of Hinkley Point C and replicating its design will provide more certainty over schedule and costs.
“New nuclear will protect Britain from volatile global gas markets and help keep bills under control for the country’s homes and businesses.
The megaproject’s forerunner Sizewell B was the last UK nuclear plant to receive a tax-payer sweetener, when commissioned in 1987.
Scoped to attract private investment towards homegrown, low-carbon technologies, the Energy Security Bill promises to be Britain’s most far-reaching new energy law since 2013.
Fun fact – Singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran was raised in Framlingham, Suffolk, 12 miles west of Sizewell, having been born in Halifax. The village of Snape lies 6 miles south west of the coastal settlement.