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Sizewell C gets go-ahead as UK pushes forward with nuclear power expansion

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Sizewell C Nuclear Reactor
Sizewell C will be one of the UK's newest nuclear power stations. Image credit: EDF

The UK Government is making good on the promises of its energy security strategy, by giving the go-ahead to Sizewell C, a new nuclear power plant on the Suffolk coast. 

Following the publication of the UK Government’s energy security strategy earlier this year, it was expected that Sizewell C would be approved, however we had to wait for a decision to officially come from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. 

As a nationally significant infrastructure project, the decision on whether to approve the project or not was in the hands of Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, who has made public his support for the new power station. In fact, just last month Kwarteng advanced plans for funding new nuclear projects, which was in addition to the £100 million in Government support Sizewell C received in January.

Despite Government funding, Sizewell C will still largely be funded by French energy company EDF, with an expected final cost in the region of £20 billion, which will be cheaper than the estimated £25–£26 billion cost for Hinkley Point C, the first new UK nuclear power station of this generation. 

Sizewell C will be constructed next to the existing Sizewell B power station, with a total of two reactors set to be operational upon completion of the project. EDF estimates that the two-reactor plant would generate 3.2 GW of electricity, which could be enough to provide 7% of the UK’s total electricity needs. 

It’s been a long road for Sizewell C to reach this point, with the nuclear power station having first submitted an application to the Planning Inspectorate for consideration on May 27, 2020. It was then accepted for examination on June 24, 2020. 

Following an examination during which the public, Statutory Consultees and Interested Parties were given the opportunity to give evidence to the Examining Authority, recommendations were made to the Secretary of State on February 25, 2022.

The Planning Inspectorate’s Chief Executive, Sarah Richards, noted, “The Planning Inspectorate has now examined more than 100 nationally significant infrastructure projects since the Planning Act 2008 process was introduced, ensuring local communities have had the opportunity of being involved in the examination of projects that may affect them.

“This Examination took place during the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated restrictions and the Examining Authority worked hard to ensure that local people, the local authorities – East Suffolk District and Suffolk County Council – and other Interested Parties were able to fully participate.

“The Examining Authority listened and gave full consideration to local views and the evidence gathered during the Examination before making its recommendation.”

Despite approval, campaigners against the new nuclear power plant plan to launch an appeal, which could further delay construction of Sizewell C. 

Delays in the commissioning of new nuclear power stations are nothing new to the UK, Hinkley Point C, which was first given the go-ahead by the UK Government in 2008, has been plagued by delays and budget overruns. As of the latest estimate, EDF says the power station should come online as of June 2027. 

Unsurprisingly, EDF are yet to provide an exact estimate as to when Sizewell C will be operational, simply noting that the project is expected to commence before 2024, with construction taking between nine and 12 years. Of course, it will require a more detailed planning application to pass, as well as dealing with any appeals, first. 

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