UK approves new nuclear power plant; Appeal to the eyes of activists

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LONDON — The UK government on Wednesday gave the green light to a new nuclear power station that is expected to produce enough low-carbon electricity to power 6 million homes.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said development permission had been granted for the construction of the plant, called Sizewell C, on the east coast of Suffolk in eastern England.

French energy company EDF, which will partly fund the project, said the plant will produce electricity for at least 60 years and employ 900 people. The plant would cost 20 billion pounds ($24 billion).

Authorities say the plant will make a substantial contribution to Britain’s goal of having up to a quarter of the electricity consumed in the country come from nuclear by 2050.

Julia Pyke, project finance manager, said the long-term consumer benefits will outweigh the construction costs.

“Sizewell C will be a big boost to jobs and skills in nuclear supply chain companies across the country. It will boost UK energy security and play a key role in our fight against climate change,” she said.

But critics said nuclear power plants are much more expensive and slower to build than renewable energy options such as solar and wind power. Environmental groups have also argued that Sizewell C will damage local nature reserves which are home to wildlife such as otters and marsh birds.

The UK wants to reduce its reliance on imported oil and gas, particularly in light of soaring energy prices amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and produce energy cheaper and cleaner on the domestic market.

The government has said it wants 95% of UK electricity to come from low-carbon sources by 2030. In an energy security strategy paper released in April, authorities also said they want that Britain once again becomes the world leader in nuclear power, a technology that the British once pioneered.

Nuclear power currently provides around 15% of UK electricity, but five of the country’s six existing nuclear power stations will be decommissioned within the decade. Sizewell C will be part of two new nuclear power stations under construction – the other station, Hinkley C, is due to open in mid-2026 after a series of delays.

Activist group Stop Sizewell C said it would consider appealing the government’s decision to approve the factory.

“Whether it’s the impact on consumers, massive costs and delays, outstanding technical issues or environmental impacts, this remains a bad project and a very bad risk,” the group said.

The UK government has committed £100m to develop the project and fundraising negotiations are ongoing.

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