Energy ministers at D-BEIS have for a second time delayed taking a final decision on the development consent order (DCO) for the Sizewell C nuclear plant.
Whitehall’s approval had been expected this month for the project 3.2GW PWR reactors on the Suffolk coast. Instead a decision will now be taken no later than 8 July.
Pledging in January £100 billion of pump-priming government support, which fell short of direct investment, Kwasi Kwarteng at the same time granted the Planning Inspectorate (PI) an extra six weeks, ending in February, to consider more than 20 revisions to developers EdF’s plans.
The usual three month consultation on a PI approval would have yielded D-BEIS’s green light by 25 May. But energy minister Paul Scully announced last week that a further three months’ grace has been granted.
“I have decided to set a new deadline of no later than 8 July 2022 for deciding this application”, Mr Scully stated to the Commons on Thursday.
“This is to ensure there is sufficient time to fully consider further information provided by the applicant and interested parties in response to the secretary of state’s post-examination consultation”, the minister explained.
Further investigations into the £20-billion project’s likely impact on birdlife and the natural environment are believed to top remaining concerns.
Only the B plant, a 3.5GW PWR reactor commissioned in 1995, remains operational of two reactors on the Suffolk coast near Leiston.
With Hinkley Point C due to enter service in 2025, Sizewell C would not begin generating until 2033 at the earliest.
Last month’s energy security review identified Sizewell C as among eight sites projected for new nuclear plants to start construction by 2030.
In March D-BEIS firmed up its offer, announcing that the UK government and EDF would each take 20% stakes in Sizewell C. Infrastructure investors and pension funds are expected to take up the remaining 60%, amid reports of growing ambivalence from ministers about continued participation by China’s nuclear builder CGNPG.