The UK government gave the green light to the Sizewell C nuclear plant in Suffolk on Wednesday, despite the independent Planning Inspectorate’s recommendation that the project does not go ahead.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng announced the approved planning decision after repeated delays – with the latest occurring in July as dozens of government ministers resigned from outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s cabinet. 

French nuclear firm EDF hopes to build a 3.2 GW, two-reactor facility next to the existing  Sizewell B plant, at a cost of £20 billion. A final funding decision by the government is expected next year. In June, the government said the project would be financed  under the Regulated Asset Base (RAB) model. This will help EDF front construction costs before Sizewell C begins to produce electricity by placing a levy on consumers’ bills. The RAB model will also see the government and EDF each take a 20 percent share in the project, with the remaining 60 percent sourced from private financiers which has yet to be secured.

The decision comes despite the independent Planning Inspectorate’s recommendation that the project doesn’t go ahead unless concerns over the lack of a regular water supply and dangers posed to native species and wildlife be resolved. The Sizewell C site is located next to RSPB Minsmere – a nature reserve managed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. 

CND, the RSPB, local campaign groups Together Against Sizewell C and Stop Sizewell C, as well as Greenpeace UK have all condemned the decision. 

Costly white elephants 

CND Vice-President and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said: “Sizewell C is a massively costly white elephant. Nuclear is the most expensive way of generating electricity anywhere in the world – and since this £20 billion plant won’t come online before 2040 at the earliest, it will arrive far too late to help meet our target of decarbonising electricity by 2035. This is such a shameful decision from our Government.”

CND General Secretary Kate Hudson said: “While Boris Johnson’s tenure as Prime Minister is coming to an end, his ill-conceived energy strategy remains in place. That’s in spite of the fact that one of the contenders to replace him, Rishi Sunak, is reported to have heavily resisted the embrace of nuclear during his tenure as Johnson’s Chancellor. Nuclear energy remains a dirty, expensive, and dangerous method of generating power and propping up the sector ultimately supports the maintenance of nuclear weapons. It’s time to put a stop to both.”

Images supplied from EDF