Boris Johnson promised £700 million of funding for the Sizewell C nuclear power project as part of a drive to improve the UK’s energy security.
The Prime Minister said the spike in gas prices driven by Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine showed why new nuclear generation capacity was needed in the UK.
The new reactor at the Sizewell site in Suffolk is expected to be built in partnership with energy firm EDF and could power the equivalent of about six million homes.
“That’s why we’re putting £700 million into the deal, just part of the £1.7 billion of Government funding available for developing a large-scale nuclear project to final investment stage in this Parliament.
“In the course of the next few weeks I am absolutely confident that it will get over the line.”
He said it would be “madness” not to go ahead with the project which would “fix the energy needs, not just of this generation but of the next”.
Downing Street was unable to give further details about the funding announcement and EDF has not yet responded.
The total cost of the Sizewell C project could be around £20 billion, according to reports.
It is not expected to begin generating electricity until the 2030s; the similar reactor at Hinkley Point C in Somerset began construction in 2016 and will not be online until 2027, although this is partly due to the impact of the pandemic.
“Yes, nuclear always looks – when you begin – it always looks relatively expensive to build and to run,” he said.
“But look at what’s happening today, look at the results of Putin’s war. It is certainly cheap by comparison with hydrocarbons today.”
He said that if Hinkley Point C was operating now “it would be cutting our national fuel bills by £3 billion”.
He said: “Because of the activism of the Government we’re now racing towards our target – we will hit it – of 50 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030.
“Fifty gigawatts is a huge amount, that’s roughly half the electricity consumption of this country, from offshore wind.
“I tell everybody who thinks ‘hydrocarbons are the only answer, we should get fracking’ and all that, offshore wind is now the cheapest form of electricity in this country. Offshore wind is nine times cheaper than gas.”