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Government backing for Sizewell C expected ‘in weeks’

The government is set to approve a key funding decision on the proposed £20bn Sizewell C nuclear plant in the next two weeks.

Ministers are ironing out “minor” details on the project prior to the announcement of a government investment decision, according to reports in The Telegraph, with a decision due in the next fortnight.

Sources told the newspaper that “negotiations with Sizewell C are at an advanced stage” and ministers expect to make a decision “as soon as next month, all going well”.

The government is understood to be looking to end the role of China’s state-owned China General Nuclear in the project due to security concerns. The decision means that alternative financial backers will be needed to fund the scheme.

News that the government is close to finalising its support for the new nuclear power station comes days after EDF threatened to walk away from the project. EDF is unable to seek funding for the new plant before the government confirms it intends to fully back the project.

EDF also needs a separate planning decision, known as a development consent order, to be approved prior to being able to attract investment for the plant, which is the same type of reactor as the Hinkley Point C scheme in Somerset.

In June, the government set a deadline of 8 July for a planning decision on Sizewell C’s separate application for a development consent order.

The government published plans on 15 June that would see Sizewell C funded by a new Regulated Asset Base. Projects would receive funding from energy suppliers before they are completed.

The new funding model would give firms such as EDF a source of income during the capital-intensive construction stage of a nuclear power plant, rather than them relying on financing for the project. The government said the new model could result in the lifetime cost of each new plant falling by up to £30bn.

In May, National Infrastructure Commission chairman Sir John Armitt urged the government to be transparent with UK consumers about the upfront costs of paying for future nuclear plants.

In light of rising costs at Hinkley Point C, Armitt told the government that it needs to explain what the cost of government-backed schemes will mean for taxpayers.