U.K. chancellor of the exchequer Jeremy Hunt last week assuaged any concerns that Britain’s nuclear energy advocates might have been harboring regarding the new government’s support for the proposed Sizewell C plant. (The United Kingdom is on its third prime minister since July, when Boris Johnson’s government granted EDF Energy its long-awaited development consent order for the new nuclear build project.)
What he said: In his November 17 Autumn Statement, while noting the United Kingdom’s status as “a global leader in renewable energy,” Hunt added, “We need to go further, with a major acceleration of home-grown technologies like offshore wind, carbon capture, and storage, and, above all, nuclear. This will deliver new jobs, industries, and export opportunities and secure the clean, affordable energy we need to power our future economy and reach net zero."
Hunt continued, “So I can today announce that the government will proceed with the new plant at Sizewell C. Subject to final government approvals, the contracts for the initial investment will be signed with relevant parties, including EDF, in the coming weeks. This will create 10,000 highly skilled jobs and provide reliable, low-carbon, power to the equivalent of 6 million homes for over 50 years. Our £700 million [about $829 million] investment is the first state backing for a nuclear project in over 30 years and represents the biggest step in our journey to energy independence.”
Nuclear reactions: In response to the chancellor’s statement, a spokesperson for 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 U.K.’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.”
The Nuclear Industry Association, the trade association for the civil nuclear industry in Britain, called Hunt’s comments “a huge boost for U.K. energy security,” with NIA chief executive Tom Greatrex stating, “the U.K. 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.”
Background: EDF Energy’s Sizewell C station would consist of twin 1,600-MWe EPRs and be built in Suffolk, England, next to Sizewell B, a 1,198-MWe pressurized water reactor that began operation in 1995. (The Sizewell site also houses Sizewell A, a 290-MWe Magnox gas-cooled reactor, but that unit was permanently shuttered in 2006.) Sizewell C would be a near copy of the two-unit Hinkley Point C station, currently under construction in Somerset.