Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, has given his approval to the construction of Sizewell C as part of his Autumn Statement. The nuclear power station will provide reliable, low-carbon power for millions of homes in the United Kingdom.
The announcement will be a relief to EDF, the co-owners of the project, as they look to help the UK become energy-independent.
Jeremy Hunt said that there will be a “major acceleration of homegrown technologies like offshore wind, carbon capture and storage, and above all nuclear” as the country looks to increase domestic energy generation.
He added that the power station 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.”
It was back in 2010 that the government first announced that the current Sizewell power station site in Suffolk was one of eight locations on the drawing board for nuclear development. Over the past 12 years, there have been many bumps in the road and obstacles to overcome but the decision now looks set that Suffolk will be receiving a new nuclear power station.
It wasn’t until 2020 that EDF announced it had applied to the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) for a license to build Sizewell C – the first real indication that they were serious about the project. However, a few months after this application went in, Suffolk County Council announced that they wouldn’t be supporting the project.
The reason for this vote of no confidence from Suffolk Council Council was because they believed that the impact the nuclear power plant would have on the local community and environment was too much to make the potential upshots worth it.
In fairness to EDF, they then tweaked their proposals to ensure the local community in Suffolk wasn’t so heavily disrupted by the building process. One proposed change was to reduce the number of heavy goods vehicles that would infiltrate the area for material delivery.
At the end of 2020, the government set out its plans to transition to net zero. As part of the announcement, they confirmed they were in talks with EDF to start constructing at least one new power station before 2024. Many assumed this to be Sizewell C.
In July of this year, shortly before he resigned as Prime Minister, Boris Johnson confirmed that the Sizewell C project would go ahead saying that the UK had to “go nuclear, go large.”
In addition to Suffolk County Council, Sizewell C has faced pushback from other groups, most notably from the Stop Sizewell C campaign group. They responded to Hunt’s announcement yesterday with a statement slamming his decision:
“If the Chancellor is looking for cheap, reliable, energy independence, he is backing the wrong project. Sizewell C’s ultimate cost and technical reliability are very uncertain and building it is reliant on French state-owned EDF.
EDF, on the other hand, are ecstatic by the Chancellor’s approval. It now means they can get to work on the construction process and look forward to helping the UK reach net zero.
“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 UK’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.”
While large parts of Jeremy Hunt’s budget have been criticized by people across the entire political spectrum, the news that the UK remains committed to decarbonisation can only be a good thing. Not only will power stations like Sizewell C help to reduce our carbon emissions, but they will also provide thousands of jobs to local areas and hedge against price rises in international energy markets such as we are currently experiencing in natural gas.