UK Government in Talks to Fund £20bn Nuclear Plant Sizewell C

December 15, 2020 Updated: December 15, 2020

The UK government has confirmed it is to negotiate with French power producer EDF about developing the proposed Sizewell C nuclear power plant in Suffolk.

The government is looking at options to enable investment in at least one nuclear power station by 2024, and is considering funding Sizewell C, a twin-reactor plant that could generate 3.2 gigawatts of electricity, 7 percent of Britain’s energy needs.

Negotiations will be subject to reaching a “value for money deal” as well as thorough scrutiny, and will need to satisfy the government’s robust legal, regulatory, and national security requirements, the Department of Energy said in a statement.

Support and Opposition

Much-debated Sizewell C has divided opinion. Supporters view it as an important step in meeting Britain’s net-zero emissions targets, providing low-carbon power and creating job opportunities.

But objectors criticise its cost, timescale, and environmental impact on the Suffolk coast. A nuclear power plant can cost more than £20 billion ($26.7 billion) and take 10 years to build.

Opponents include the Stop Sizewell C campaign group, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), and Suffolk Wildlife Trust. Suffolk County Council stated in September that it can’t support EDF’s proposals in their current form.

It was also recently reported that the China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN), who have a minority share in nuclear power plants at Hinkley Point in Somerset and Sizewell C in Suffolk, are allegedly considering pulling out of the Sizewell nuclear plant project, according to the Daily Mail.

Green Energy Plan

The government’s announcement came alongside the release of the energy white paper, which aims to support up to 220,000 jobs over the next decade across England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, the ministry said in a statement.

Building on the Prime Minister’s ten-point plan for a green industrial revolution, the white paper sets out “steps the government will take over the next decade to cut emissions from industry, transport, and buildings by 230 million metric tonnes—equivalent to taking 7.5 million petrol cars off the road permanently.”

“The proposals outlined in the energy white paper will give business further confidence to deliver new infrastructure, including electric vehicle charging, renewable power generation and low-carbon upgrades to people’s homes,” Rain Newton-Smith, chief economist at the Confederation of British Industry, said.

Plans to create jobs through the white paper build on the government’s £280 billion ($373 billion) support package to safeguard employment. The government said it had already protected 9 million jobs through the furlough scheme, provided £13 billion ($17 billion) for the self-employed, and provided billions of pounds in tax deferrals and grants for businesses.

The government said it will invest £12 billion ($16 billion) to create up to 250,000 highly skilled “green jobs” in the UK and generate over three times as much private sector investment by 2030, as part of the prime minister’s goal to “level up across the country.”

The white paper includes a UK Emissions Trading Scheme that is “more ambitious than the current EU system,” the government said, as from the start the cap on carbon emissions within the system will be reduced by 5 percent.

Other initiatives include moving away from fossil fuels, lowering people’s energy bills, and supporting the lowest paid with their bills through £6.7 billion ($8.9 billion) of funding, which the government said could save families in old, inefficiently heated homes up to £400 ($533) a year.