In the final weeks of his incumbency, the Prime Minister and Chancellor have given the ‘green light’ for a new multibillion-pound Sizewell nuclear plant in Suffolk.
In the last few weeks of his premiership, Mr Johnson and Mr Zahawi have backed significant investment in the Sizewell plant – giving the UK Government an expected 20 per cent stake in the development. The Government are seeking private funding to finance the remaining cost of the project, estimated at £20-30 billion – although a final decision on the figures will be made early next year.
The project, mainly funded by the French energy company EDF, aims to generate about 7 per cent of the UK’s electricity needs and operate for 60 years. The new plant would be built next to the existing Sizewell B, which is still generating electricity, and Sizewell A, which has been decommissioned, according to Business Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng. To date, the government has committed £100m to develop the project.
The recent announcement contradicts Boris Johnson’s statements that he would not be making any major decisions until a new leader for the Conservative party is elected on 5th September this year.
Although Mr Kwarteng – who is tipped to be Liz Truss’s chancellor if she wins the Tory leadership race – is said to be “massively” on board with the plan, other party members have expressed doubts about the rationale of Johnson’s decision, as well as fears that it would limit the decisions of the next prime minister.
The leadership race
Faced with record-high inflation rates and rising energy prices, Truss, the frontrunner to become the next British prime minister, has pledged tax cuts, including a reversal of the National Insurance hike costing at least £30bn per year.
Truss has not yet stated a clear position on Sizewell C, but she has in the past year hinted at concerns about the involvement of China’s state-owned energy company, CGN, in the consortium that provided funding for the preparatory work at the nuclear plant.
“I think it’s very important that we don’t become strategically dependent and I think it’s important that we make sure that we’re working, particularly in areas of critical national infrastructure, with reliable partners,” she told The Telegraph at the time.
However, as experts warn the energy price cap could surpass £6,000 in April, Truss is under growing pressure to increase the UK’s energy production capabilities, an objective that Kwarteng believes would be achieved by “cracking on” with more nuclear power stations.
The building of the new plant has however proved controversial amongst environmental campaigners, who said the project went against the recommendation of the Planning Inspectorate regarding the need to resolve issues on water supplies and nature. The plant would be built next to the RSPB’s Minsmere nature reserve, and could therefore have a negative effect on the avocets, bitterns, marsh harriers, otters and other species that live in the area.
The UK government plans to completely decarbonise the country’s electricity by 2035. By 2050, it is expected that up to 25 per cent of the country’s energy usage (24GW) would be generated from nuclear, while the remaining 75 per cent would come from other forms of renewable or low-carbon energy such as offshore wind or solar.
Levelling Up the Conversation
Chamber, in partnership with EDF, is hosting an exciting Levelling Up the Conversation on skills for the future of Suffolk. The distinguished panel including Peter Aldous MP and local leaders will answer questions on the issues affecting East Suffolk, including the construction of Sizewell C and the future of the Suffolk economy. With the news of the Sizewell plant investment and creation of jobs for Suffolk, the event will host a rich discussion on this important issue.