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sizewell c close to greenlight as government plots out future for uk energy.

With the UK government committed to nuclear, talks have intensified with French energy contractor EDF to build the new nuclear energy plant in Suffolk. EDF says when completed the plant will power six million homes and provide 25,000 jobs and 1,000 apprenticeships in the sector. This in turn will deliver a huge boost to the post-coronavirus recovery.

The application to build the £20bn plant was accepted in June and approval of a Development Consent Order by the government is expected in the forthcoming Energy White Paper expected in late November.

EDF says Sizewell will supply low-carbon, always on energy, improving the UK's energy resilience by reducing the need for energy imports and supporting the expansion of renewables. Once the plant is operational it will provide high quality permanent jobs for 900 people.

Ownership stake

The government is expected to take an ownership stake in the project which will see consumers paying extra on their bills to drive down costs. The speed of the work at Hinkley, where a second reactor has been completed 30% faster than the first, is thought to have mitigated the risk for government investment. 

EDF has said that 70% of the construction value will be spent across the UK, including Wales and the East and North of England. There is also a case to 'lift and shift' jobs and skills from Hinkley to Sizewell, preserving expertise and jobs in the well paid 'green skills' sector.

The creation of such a 'skills bridge' between the two sites would ensure skills don't transfer out of the energy sector. It should also stabilise Britain's nuclear industry which could prove an essential part of the government's low carbon energy mix.

Sizewell has been conceived as a replica of the Hinkley Point C reactor in Somerset which is already delivering benefits to the economy of the South West while boosting industrial capacity. By replicating the design it's hoped that Sizewell C will benefit from significant reductions to construction costs.

Net zero infrastructure

Managing director of Sizewell C, Humphrey Cadoux-Hudson, called the new nuclear plant a 'net zero infrastructure project ready to kick-start the economy' in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The new reactor is designed to strengthen the nuclear supply chain in the UK after the collapse of the Wylfa, Moorside and Oldbury projects, and the likelihood that a mooted reactor designed and built by Chinese energy giant CGN is unlikely to take place, at least in the near future.

But Sizewell C could offer more than economic benefits to the UK. Cadoux-Hudson said the project would avoid nine million tonnes of CO2 being pumped into the UK's atmosphere each year, thus playing a key role in lowering emissions and helping the UK head to a carbon neutral future.

While wind and solar are both cheaper net carbon alternatives to nuclear energy, there is the problem of energy intermittency when the sun doesn't shine and the wind doesn't blow. Energy storage technology remains expensive and other promising sustainable technologies aren't yet at scale, making nuclear an attractive low carbon option as the government strive towards net-carbon zero by 2050.

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