The British government has announced an investment of £679 million (about $828 million) in the proposed Sizewell C nuclear plant in Suffolk, England, confirming chancellor of the exchequer Jeremy Hunt’s remarks on the project in his November 17 Autumn Statement.
The investment makes the government a 50 percent shareholder with EDF in Sizewell C and allows for China General Nuclear Power Corporation’s exit from the project. (CGN remains, however, a partner with EDF in Britain’s Hinkley Point C new nuclear build project, currently underway in Somerset.)
The funding also represents the first direct government investment in a new nuclear power project since Sizewell B—the last nuclear power station to be built in the United Kingdom, approved for construction in 1987 and in commercial operation as of 1995.
According to the November 29 funding announcement, the British government will work with EDF to raise capital investment for Sizewell C, which is expected to create 10,000 high-skill jobs and provide reliable, low-carbon power to the equivalent of six million homes for more than 50 years. Also confirmed in the government’s announcement was a commitment to setting up Great British Nuclear, a governmental body tasked with developing a pipeline of new nuclear builds beyond Sizewell C, with further details expected early in 2023.
What they’re saying: “Global gas prices are at record highs, caused by Putin’s illegal march on Ukraine,” noted business and energy secretary Grant Shapps in the announcement. “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.”
Simone Rossi, chief executive officer at EDF Energy, added, “This is a big vote of confidence in Sizewell C, and 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. It will deliver another big boost to jobs and skills in the nuclear industry and provide huge new opportunities for communities in Suffolk.”
The project: EDF Energy’s Sizewell C station would consist of twin 1,600-MWe EPRs and be built next to Sizewell B, a 1,198-MWe pressurized water reactor. (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.
In case you missed it: In April of this year, the U.K. government released a new plan to boost Britain’s energy independence; stabilize its soaring energy prices; and accelerate the deployment of new nuclear, wind, solar, and hydrogen to mitigate climate change. British Energy Security Strategy declared, “Nuclear is the only form of reliable, low-carbon electricity generation which has been proven at scale and returns more than a hundred times as much power as a solar site of the same size. We can only secure a big enough baseload of reliable power for our island by drawing on nuclear.”
With an aim toward increasing nuclear’s dwindling share of U.K. electricity generation (five of the six remaining operating plants are to be closed within the decade), the strategy envisions up to 24 GW from nuclear by 2050—about three times the current reactor fleet’s output and representing up to 25 percent of Britain’s projected 2050 electricity demand. Nuclear currently accounts for about 15 percent of Britain’s electricity mix.
The government said that the ambitious plan could result in the construction of as many as eight reactors in this decade. The designated nuclear sites are Bradwell, Hartlepool, Heysham, Hinkley, Moorside, Oldbury, Sizewell, and Wylfa.