Sizewell C nuclear plant up for review as UK faces financial black hole

'Every major project' on the table, says government as Autumn Statement looms

About half of the UK's planned civil nuclear capacity could be reviewed as the government struggles to fill a £40 billion ($45 billion) black hole in its finances.

Sizewell C, a new nuclear power plant planned for Suffolk, is now under evaluation as the government considers delaying or even canceling the project it is helping to back, the BBC was told.

The project could provide up to 7 percent of the UK's total electricity, and joins the delayed and over-budget Hinkely Point C as the only new-build nuclear projects in the pipeline.

"We are reviewing every major project – including Sizewell C," a government official told the Beeb.

A spokesman for the prime minister said of the £20 billion ($22.5 billion) project that they "hoped to get a deal over the line as soon as possible."

The project is set to be mainly funded by the French energy company EDF, although the UK government is making a contribution to the plant which is not expected to begin generating electricity until the 2030s.

In January, the government pledged £100 million ($113 million) to support Sizewell C and was expected to take a 10 percent stake.

The review comes in the run-up to the Autumn Statement on November 17, in which finance minister Jeremy Hunt will set out tax and spending plans as the UK faces what is predicted to be its longest recession in 30 years.

Even if the plans go ahead, the UK is too late to avoid a negative impact on local electricity supply due to the closure of its civil nuclear capacity, according to evidence offered to the Commons Science and Technology Committee last week.

Hinkley Point C – the UK's first nuclear power station to be built in 20 years – has been beset by delays and over-spending. In May, EDF admitted to another year's delay and £3 billion ($3.4 billion) extra cost. The revised operating date for the site in Somerset is June 2027 and total costs are estimated to be in the range of £25 billion to £26 billion ($29 billion).

EDF said it would have no cost impact on British consumers or taxpayers. The power station had been due online by 2017 at a cost of around £20 billion ($22 billion).

The lack of consistent government policy directing sustained investment in building nuclear power stations has driven fear of a loss of nuclear knowledge and capability in the UK economy.

In 2020, a report from the House of Lords science and technology committee found that successive governments' delays in taking civil nuclear policy decisions has seriously damaged the UK industry's potential ability both in the short and longer terms to contribute effectively to whatever national policies might ultimately be favored. ®

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