Nuclear project is plunged into crisis as French giant EDF ‘threatens to quit’ Sizewell C
EDF is prepared to walk away from the Sizewell C nuclear project unless the Government makes a key investment commitment in the coming weeks, unions have warned.
The French energy giant is growing increasingly frustrated with Whitehall, sources said, and will consider ditching the scheme if there are delays to finalising a crucial milestone called a government investment decision (GID).
This would be a firm commitment to the UK taking a stake and cement its support for Sizewell C, which is the only new large-scale nuclear project ministers have said they want to pursue.
French energy giant EDF is prepared to walk away from the Sizewell C nuclear project unless the Government makes a key investment commitment
The decision would pave the way for EDF to approach investors and markets to help fund the development of the Suffolk plant, due to start producing energy in the early 2030s.
EDF cannot currently approach possible investors and its internal funding for Sizewell C is understood to run out in a matter of weeks.
Although this could be renewed, the cut-off is piling more pressure on the UK. A source said the ‘tone is changing’ in Paris and the company wants to see a decision made before Parliament’s summer recess begins on July 21.
A separate planning decision, which also needs to be cleared before EDF can speak to investors, is due on July 8.
Chinese state nuclear energy group CGN has been developing Sizewell C with EDF. But it is not expected to continue with the project in the next phase.
The need for Britain to produce more of its own power has been thrown into the spotlight by the war in Ukraine and soaring gas prices.
In a letter to Kwasi Kwarteng seen by the Mail, four of the UK’s biggest unions warned the future of the plant and thousands of jobs are in jeopardy if the deadline is missed.
The document sent on Monday to the Business Secretary was signed by Trades Union Congress deputy general secretary Paul Nowak, Unite’s head Sharon Graham, the GMB’s Gary Smith and Prospect’s Mike Clancy.
The letter said: ‘We have been made aware through discussions at the European Works Council that EDF Energy’s commitment to this project will not be sustained in the absence of a prompt GID… We sincerely believe that unless this matter is resolved in the next few weeks, the UK’s nuclear future and the jobs and skills of tens of thousands of nuclear workers will be at risk.’
Last week the Government revealed it had taken an option for 20 per cent of Sizewell C and EDF is expected to take a similar stake.
This would mean EDF would be responsible for raising the other 60 per cent through ‘regulated asset base’ funding, which would be used for the first time with Sizewell C.
Ministers launched another consultation on this type of funding last week. Around £1.7billion has been set aside for a nuclear plant in the next few years and they have publicly said that only Sizewell C is on the table.
It would supply power to six million homes and take between nine and 12 years to build.
The Government’s final investment decision, which will give Sizewell C the formal go-ahead, is expected early next year. An EDF spokesman said it was committed to the project and was ‘making strong progress’.