UK to start talks on Sizewell C as Energy White Paper released

14 December 2020

Sizewell C (Photo: EDF Energy)The UK Government has confirmed it will enter advanced negotiations with EDF on Sizewell, as it released it Energy White Paper.

The long-awaited white paper sets out the government’s plans to clean up the UK’s energy system and keep bills affordable as it transitions to net zero.

“Today’s plan 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,” said Business and Energy Secretary Alok Sharma.

“Through a major programme of investment and reform, we are determined to both decarbonise our economy in the most cost-effective way, while creating new sunrise industries and revitalising our industrial heartlands that will support new green jobs for generations to come.”

On nuclear power, the white paper outlines an aim to bring “at least one large scale nuclear project to the point of final investment decision” by the end of this Parliament i.e. by 2024.

It also confirms the government’s commitment to small and advanced reactors, and the aim “by the 2030s, to develop a Small Modular Reactor (SMR) design and build an Advanced Modular Reactor (AMR) demonstrator.“

The paper says the government have provided (subject to spending reviews) £385 million of funding for small modular reactors (SMRs), as well as £170 million in funding for advanced modular reactors (AMRs) and up to £400 million towards new UK fusion programmes.

It notes that the UK recently launched an open call for communities in the UK to apply to be a host site for the STEP, the compact fusion power plant that the UK is expecting to build by 2040.

The paper also says the government would open the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) process, to SMR developers in 2021. The GDA is the regulatory process by which developers can obtain approval of their proposed design approach.

Along side the White Paper, the UK government also announced it will enter negotiations with EDF on the construction of Sizewell C.

Negotiations will be subject to reaching “a value for money deal” and all other relevant approvals, before any final decision is taken on whether to proceed, the government said.

“The Government’s decision to enter negotiations on Sizewell C is great news and further recognition of the vital role large scale nuclear will play in getting to Net Zero,” said Humphrey Cadoux-Hudson, managing director, Nuclear Development at EDF.

“We are eager to start discussions with the Government on a suitable financing model for the project and we look forward to the next phase of scrutiny of our plans by the Planning Inspectorate.”

Officials will explore a range of financing options for new nuclear, including the Regulated Asset Base (RAB) funding model and the "potential role of government finance during construction, provided there is clear value for money for consumers and taxpayers," the White Paper said.

In June, the UK Planning Inspectorate accepted for examination the planning application for the Sizewell C. The review process is expected to take 15 to 18 months. The UK Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has also received a site licence application for two EPRs at Sizewell C.

The plant will be a replica of Hinkley Point C, already under construction, benefiting from lower construction and financing costs.

The news was welcomed by the Uk nuclear industry.

“The Government’s decision to enter advanced negotiations with EDF on Sizewell C is very good news for our environment and our economy. Sizewell is a vital next step towards the net zero power mix we need for the future,” said Tom Greatrex, Chief Executive of the UK’s Nuclear Industry Association.

“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.”

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