Move follows several months delay in lodging consent application for the 'near replica' of Hinkley Point C on East coast of England
EDF has finally submitted plans for its long-trailed Sizewell C nuclear power project in Suffolk, today announcing it has lodged an official application to begin construction work on the multi-billion pound facility towards the end of next year.
The application to the UK's Planning Inspectorate, which was originally indented for March, was delayed for two months due to the coronavirus crisis, but the French energy giant said it now hoped to complete the Development Consent Order process for the 3.2GW project within 18 months.
Set to be located on the East coast of England next to Sizewell B - the UK's most modern nuclear power station which opened in 1995 - the latest project is designed to provide enough low carbon electricity to power six million UK homes for 60 years once operational, EDF said.
Previous reports have estimated the total cost of the project at between £16-20bn, but EDF insists Sizewell C can provide a "huge" boost to the region, providing a crucial stimulus to the UK economy as it battles an impending recession in the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.
It claims the project would create around 25,000 employment opportunities and 1,000 apprenticeships during its 10-year construction phase, as well as 900 high skilled jobs once operational.
Moreover, EDF said the project - which it described as "near identical" to its other flagship nuclear development Hinkley Point C - would support the expansion of renewables towards the UK's net zero goal, as well as improving national resilience by reducing the need for energy imports.
Humphrey Cadoux-Hudson, managing director for the Sizewell C at EDF, described the nuclear power facility as "a net zero infrastructure project ready to kick-start the economy following the coronavirus crisis".
"On top of the economic benefits, Sizewell C will avoid nine million tonnes of CO2 being pumped into the atmosphere each year," he added. "The project will play a key role in lowering emissions while helping the UK keep control of its low carbon future."
As well as generating electricity equivalent to seven per cent of the UK's total power needs, EDF said Sizewell C would help to replace coal and gas while supporting further growth in renewables.
However, significant concerns surround the high costs associated with new nuclear power, particularly in the wake of the controversial Hinkley Point C project in Somerset, which has soared £2.9bn over budget so far and is running 15 months behind schedule.
EDF said Sizewell C would use the same design as Hinkely Point C, and would therefore benefit from "significantly reduced construction costs and lower risk". Financing could also help reduce costs even further, it added.
Chinese state-owned firm CGN also holds a 20 per cent stake in the development phase of Sizewell C. The same company also holds a 33 per cent stake in Hinkley Point C.
But many green groups argue renewable power sources coupled with battery storage and grid flexibility technologies offer a far cheaper and more reliable, zero carbon source of electricity for the UK grid. A report last year by think tank ECIU argued the UK should look to scale up wind and solar rather than nuclear energy capacity going forward.
Greenpeace UK chief scientist Doug Parr said EDF's decision to push for new nuclear power in the face of "cheaper, safer, faster and far more popular alternatives" being pursued elsewhere in the world was "difficult to explain".
"For half a century Britain was overly-optimistic about the technology, but we don't have to keep making the same mistake," he said. "All it would take to knock billions off our future energy bills is for the government to admit they are backing the wrong horse. Energy technologies and economics have changed enormously over the past five years, and energy policy needs to change with them."
European Commission unveils sweeping economic recovery strategy in support of Green Deal ambition
Report warns that investors must put their clout behind emerging innovative technological solutions, such as offshore closed cage systems and onshore recirculating aquaculture solutions, for the industry increase production supply through 2030.
Cross party Environmental Justice Commission sets out demands for 'faster, further and fairer' net zero transition
University of Plymouth-led study notes that microplastics shed from vehicle tyres are putting millions of square metres of UK waters at risk of contamination.