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20 July, 2022 - 17:42 By Tony Quested

Row over Sizewell C go-ahead turns ‘nuclear’

Debate over the Government’s decision to allow the development of Sizewell C in Suffolk has itself turned ‘nuclear.’

Environmental groups, Nimbys and anti-nuclear campaigners have savaged the move as irresponsible while unions and others in the pro lobby are professing themselves ecstatic.

The rational taxpayer will no doubt focus on the likely cost, with experts predicting that it will rocket from the projected £20 billion to nearer £43.8bn and take 17 years to complete the nuclear power plant.

Proponents of the development counter by claiming the project will create 25,000 jobs, up to 1,500 apprenticeships and benefit around 2,500 businesses in the vicinity.

The Government said it hoped Sizewell C would generate enough low-carbon electricity to supply six million homes and that investment in nuclear power would “insulate the UK” from febrile energy prices.

There remains a ‘show us the colour of your money’ issue for some opponents: The Government pledged in March to take a 20 per cent stake in Sizewell C matched by French power company EDF. But an official decision on government funding is not due until next year.

Sizewell C's chief planning officer, Carly Vince, claimed: “Sizewell C will be good for the region, creating thousands of opportunities for local people and businesses. It will boost local biodiversity and leave a legacy Suffolk can be proud of.”

But campaign group Stop Sizewell C said it would fight on and planned an appeal. And unions suggested the Government should expedite the project. Union chiefs said the record levels of heat in the UK at the start of the week showed that decarbonising the nation’s energy supply was absolutely critical.

The decision to back Sizewell C was hardly a surprise given all the talk this week about global warming and the need for the UK to accelerate the march towards Net Zero.

Greenpeace was livid. Greenpeace UK’s chief scientist, Dr Doug Parr, said: “The contrast between dynamic, cost cutting and innovative technologies in the renewables sector and the limping behemoths of new nuclear power could barely be more striking.

“Sizewell C represents all that’s been wrong about energy policy. A nuclear company, saddled with problems – from failing reactors to having to be nationalised – is getting a stitched up deal behind closed doors leading to extra costs on energy bills, unmanageable waste for future generations and an expensive white elephant project. That it’s trashing an important nature reserve is an unwanted bonus.

“Rather than wasting time and money on this red herring energy solution, the government should throw everything at making cheaper, cleaner and more reliable renewables the backbone of our energy system. Whatever else is going on in UK politics at the moment, there’s no sign of a fresh start here.”

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