Talks begin over new UK nuclear plant

The UK's largest business organisation has welcomed the government's decision to begin discussions with French energy giant EDF over funding the construction of the £20 billion Sizewell C nuclear plant in Suffolk.

The decision to press ahead with the new plant, which could generate seven per cent of Britain's electricity needs, was announced in the Energy White Paper published on Monday.Ministers said plans outlined in the white paper to cut greenhouse gas emissions from industry, transport and buildings, would support up to 220,000 jobs over the next decade.Business and Energy Secretary Alok Sharma defended the decision to press ahead with nuclear energy, rather than depending solely on other green energy sources in the bid to make the UK carbon neutral by 2050.He told the BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The wind doesn't always blow and the sun doesn't always shine. We are starting negotiations with EDF (but) it is not a green light on the construction."Today's plan (in the Energy White Paper) establishes a decisive and permanent shift away from our dependence on fossil fuels, towards cleaner energy sources that will put our country at the forefront of the global green industrial revolution."After several proposals to build nuclear plants elsewhere in the UK had been scrapped recently on cost grounds, the decision to begin negotiating over Sizewell C was greeted relief by business leaders, although the final decision to build the plant will be subject to a full regulatory and planning approval process.Rain Newton-Smith, chief economist at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said: “The Energy White Paper is an important next step in our plans to reach our net-zero emissions target. Action is needed now, and the welcome focus on job creation around the country, developing sustainable low-carbon industries, and ensuring the transition is fair for consumers will all help us achieve our ambitious climate goals.
“Business stands ready to deliver the investment and innovation needed to turn ambition into reality, and the proposals outlined in the Energy White Paper will give firms further confidence to deliver new infrastructure, including electric vehicle charging, renewable power generation and low-carbon upgrades to people’s homes.“The government’s decision to enter into negotiations over Sizewell C and to further develop financing plans for new nuclear is also welcome. Nuclear will play an important role, alongside renewables, in powering our low-carbon economy. Building new nuclear capacity will give us a vital tool to help meet our global climate obligations.“The additional clarity provided on plans for post-Brexit carbon pricing will give businesses across the economy further welcome certainty ahead of January 1.”Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association described Sizewell C as a "vital next step" towards achieving the net zero power the nation needed."As well as at least 60 years of constantly available clean electricity, this project will provide thousands of highly-skilled, well-paid and long-term jobs across the supply chain, at a time when they are badly needed," he said.The only other new nuclear plant currently going ahead in the UK is Hinkley Point C plant in Somerset, which France's EDF is building in partnership with China General Nuclear Power.

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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