The UK government has given the go-ahead to a multi-billion-pound new nuclear power station.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said on July 20 that development consent was granted for the Sizewell C project in Suffolk, which is expected to generate enough electricity to supply 6 million homes.
Negotiations with the government on raising funds for the project are continuing and a Financial Investment Decision is expected in 2023.
The project, which is expected to cost £20 billion ($24 billion), will be mainly funded by the French energy company EDF, but the Chinese state-owned China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) also has a 20 percent stake.
China’s involvement in nuclear power in the UK dates back to an agreement endorsed by then-Prime Minister David Cameron and Chinese leader Xi Jinping in 2015. The UK government’s appetite for Chinese investment in infrastructure has since soured.
In 2020, the UK government reversed its position on Huawei, banning the Chinese telecom giant from its 5G mobile phone network.
Under mounting pressure from the United States and prominent Conservative backbenchers, the government indicated a growing appetite to cut CGN out from the Sizewell C project.
The government announced a new financing model in October 2021 that provides a mechanism to squeeze CGN out of Sizewell without invoking national security laws that would likely crank up tensions with Beijing.
With the new model, EDF will be able to forge new partnerships with alternative private investors.
Almost half of the UK’s current nuclear capacity is due to be decommissioned by 2025 and only one new plant, Hinkley Point C, is currently under construction and owned by EDF Energy and CGN.
But the issue of nuclear power continues to generate controversy.
Julia Pyke, Sizewell C’s financing director, said the government decision on the project is “good news for bill-payers.”
“Sizewell C will give a big boost to jobs and skills in nuclear supply chain companies across the country. It will strengthen the UK’s energy security and play a key role in our fight against climate change,” she added.
But campaign group Stop Sizewell C called it “the wrong decision.”
A spokesman said: “Whether it is the impact on consumers, the massive costs and delays, the outstanding technical questions, or the environmental impacts, it remains a bad project and a very bad risk.”
The group said it will consider appealing the decision and will “continue to challenge every aspect of Sizewell C.”