Government moves forward with £700 million stake in Sizewell C

The government has confirmed it will back the development of the Sizewell C nuclear power plant in Suffolk, following speculation that the plans were going to be axed due to spending cuts.

In August this year, former prime minister Boris Johnson was said to have approved the financing for Sizewell C “in secret”, according to a leaked letter seen by the Times.

Earlier this month reports emerged that plans were “under review” as the government looked to make cuts to spending.

However, in a statement issued today, the government has now committed a £700m stake in the controversial nuclear reactor. It is set to become a 50% shareholder in the project’s development with French energy group EDF.

According to the government, the plant will power six million homes and create 10,000 jobs, with business secretary Grant Shapps describing the move as “historic”.

Shapps has also committed to taking forward the ‘British Energy Security Bill’, as introduced in July in one of Johnson’s final moves as prime minister. The bill is currently going through parliament.

The government has also committed to developing a pipeline of new nuclear projects, beyond Sizewell C, and has said they will set up a new arms length body,‘Great British Nuclear’, to oversee these plans. In the bill, Shapps has also set an ambition to reduce energy demand by 15% by 2030.

Business and energy secretary Grant Shapps said: “Global gas prices are at record highs, caused by Putin’s illegal march on Ukraine. 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.”

Chancellor of the exchequer Jeremy Hunt highlighted that Sizewell C is the first state backed nuclear project for 30 years.

He said: “Together with our drive to improve the nation’s energy efficiency, this package will help to permanently bring down energy bills and stop Britain being at the mercy of global gas prices beyond our control.”

Simone Rossi, chief executive of EDF Energy said: "Sizewell C will build on the achievements of Hinkley Point C and replicating its design will provide more certainty over schedule and costs. It will deliver another big boost to jobs and skills in the nuclear industry and provide huge new opportunities for communities in Suffolk.”

However, green groups have raised concerns about the impact of Hinkley Point C and consequently Sizewell C on fish populations. Others have suggested that the project may not be cost for money.

Greenpeace UK policy director Doug Parr said: “The launch of Great British Nuclear is clearly ironic as new nuclear is neither great nor British. Projects have been plagued by massive delays and ballooning costs while the government is seeking to have Sizewell C - a French-designed and built reactor - funded by foreign investment funds.

“It’s hard to work out what drives the government’s enthusiasm for new nuclear. It‘s not cheap, or clean, or necessary as there are better, quicker and less expensive options to deliver electricity.”