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UK government to take 50% stake in Sizewell C nuclear project, amid legal challenge, soaring costs, and pension funds pulling out.

No2 Nuclear Power SAFE ENERGY E-JOURNAL No.97, April 2023

In December, the Government announced, yet again, that Sizewell C will go ahead, and that it would invest nearly £700m to end China’s controversial involvement. Ministers said the move would mean the UK Government taking a 50% stake in the project’s development. (1) However, the announcement was no more than the long-anticipated buying out of China General Nuclear from the project and funds to allow the development of the project to the point of a Final Investment Decision (FID). (2) Business Secretary Grant Shapps has refused to provide a figure for the cost of buying out China’s stake.

It reaffirmed its commitment again at the launch of the ‘Powering Up Britain’ strategy. It says it will bring Sizewell C to the point of a final investment decision this year. In his spring budget announced earlier this month, chancellor Jeremy Hunt confirmed the Government would be investing £700million in Sizewell C. (3)

Campaigners launched a legal challenge against Sizewell C in the High Court on Wednesday 22nd and Thursday 23rd March. (4) Together Against Sizewell C argues that the environmental impacts of securing a permanent water supply of two million litres per day were never assessed. As a result, the government cannot guarantee the date the nuclear plant will open, which means it has no way of knowing for sure that the plant’s contribution to climate change is enough to override the environmental harm it will cause. TASC also says no alternatives to nuclear power, including renewables, were considered when the Secretary of State for Energy, then Kwasi Kwarteng, gave the go ahead. He rejected the recommendation of the Examining Authority which ruled in February 2022 that unless the outstanding water supply strategy could be resolved and sufficient information provided to enable the Secretary of State to carry out his obligations under the Habitats Regulations, there was no case for a development consent order. The result of the hearing should be known between the 23rd April and the 7th May.

Sizewell Funding Efforts to attract investment into Sizewell C have taken a setback after two of the UK’s biggest pension funds turned their backs on the project. The BT Pension Scheme and NatWest – have told campaign group Stop Sizewell C and the Daily Mail they do not intend to back the project. (5) However, the UAE’s wealth fund – Mubadala – may invest. (6)

With Hinkley Point C now forecast to cost £33 billion and Sizewell C as much as £30 billion, Grant Shapps insists “private sector capital and investment” will ride to the rescue. He points to the Middle East. “I was recently in the Gulf states and was really struck by the money available for investment,” he says. “What they want to know is that we’ve got a platform, Great British Nuclear, and that we’re up for it — we’ve got the technology.” (7)

The Flamanville EPR is another six months late and 500 million euros more expensive. (8) Regular electricity production at Finland’s new Olkiluoto 3 nuclear reactor has been postponed again to 29th March. (9) Nuclear Engineering International summarises where the world’s EPRs have got to. (10)


May 6, 2023 - Posted by | politics, UK

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