Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged £700m ($810m) to finance the planned Sizewell C nuclear power project, pledging a “nuclear stressed the need to move.
In his final major policy speech before resigning next week, Johnson said the surge in gas prices sparked by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine shows why the UK needs new nuclear capacity. said.
The new reactor at the Sizewell site in Suffolk, which will be built in partnership with French energy company EDF, will be able to power the equivalent of about 6 million homes.
Almost half of the UK’s current nuclear power capacity will be retired by 2025.
Mr Johnson said there had been a “nuclear energy paralysis in the UK” and blamed successive governments for their failure to invest in new reactors.
“Yes, nuclear power always looks relatively expensive to build and operate when it starts,” he said. “But look at what’s happening today, the results of Putin’s war. Compared to today’s hydrocarbons, they’re certainly cheap.”
“Let’s think about the future, about our children and grandchildren, about the next generation.
“And I say to you, with the prophetic candor and clarity of someone about to hand over the inaugural torch, I say go nuclear, go big, go with Sizewell C.”
The UK government gave the green light to the Sizewell C project in July.
Expected to cost £20bn ($24bn), the project will be funded primarily by French energy company EDF, but China’s state-owned China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) will also invest in 20 % shares.
CGN is also working with EDF to develop Hinkley Point C, the only new nuclear power plant currently under construction in the UK.
China’s involvement in nuclear power in the UK dates back to an agreement signed by then-Prime Minister David Cameron and Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2015. Since then, the British government’s willingness to invest in Chinese infrastructure has declined.
In 2020, the UK government reversed its position on Huawei, banning the Chinese telecoms giant from its 5G cellular network.
Under increasing pressure from the US and prominent Conservative back-ventures, the government has signaled a growing willingness to exclude CGN from the Sizewell C project.
The government announced a new funding model in October 2021. This provides a mechanism to squeeze CGN out of Sizewell without invoking national security legislation that would likely increase tensions with Beijing.
The new model will allow EDF to forge new partnerships with alternative retail investors.
PA Media contributed to this report.