Financial details still to be settled but PM due to make announcement next week
Boris Johnson is poised to give the go-ahead to a new nuclear power station at Sizewell in Suffolk as part of the Government’s bid to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
The Prime Minister is due to give a major speech next week on going carbon neutral, with industry insiders anticipating a major commitment to developing a new nuclear reactor at Sizewell C.
i understands that a final decision has yet to be signed off by No10 as the funding package is still being negotiated with French energy firm EDF.
But any decision to push ahead with a new power plant is a significant step in the Government’s renewed commitment to “new nuclear”.
It forms part of Mr Johnson’s pledge to “build back better” in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The announcement is part of Mr Johnson’s 10-point plan to reaching net zero by 2050 and comes after Japanese firms Toshiba and Hitachi withdrew from nuclear projects in Anglesey and Cumbria.
Sources said the project is likely to be financed via a “blended approach” that could see the Government taking financial stake in the scheme in the hope of keeping additional costs on consumer bills to a minimum.
Any funding solution is set to prove controversial given the high costs of building new nuclear in the UK. Power from Hinkley Point C, the only other new nuclear power plant under construction, could cost consumers £30bn in higher energy costs, according to the National Audit Office.
The final approach is expected to be set out in the Government’s long-awaited energy whitepaper, which is due to be published at the end of the month.
Officials in Government are increasingly seeing nuclear as an essential tool in reducing the country’s carbon emissions in time to meet the 2050 deadline, because it provides power when wind and solar are dormant. But the UK’s existing fleet of power stations is reaching the end of its life, with all but one due to close within the next decade. Ministers are on a tight deadline to get new plants up and running to fill the capacity gap.
Mr Johnson is also expected to announce plans for a new net zero taskforce that will help inform the Government’s attempts to reduce its emissions.
The Prime Minister is keen to set out his vision beyond the coronavirus pandemic, and views major infrastructure projects, such as Sizewell, as an opportunity to emphasise the Government’s support for creating new jobs.
Saudi Arabia of wind power
Thursday’s speech is also understood to include commitments to invest in carbon capture and storage technology, as well as supporting research into the development of synthetic fuels.
It builds on Mr Johnson’s speech to the Conservative conference when he made the commitment to transform the UK into the “Saudi Arabia of wind power” by pledging to power every home in the UK using off-shore wind turbines by 2030.
Speaking last month, he said his Government would create a future of “high-skilled, green-collar jobs in wind, in solar, in nuclear, in hydrogen and in carbon capture and storage”.