The government has today (Thursday) given the go-ahead to build Hinkley Point C nuclear power station near Bunham-On-Sea.
The French and Chinese governments have been told that the £18bn project will proceed, but with “significant new safeguards” to protect national security.
Burnham’s MP James Heappey welcomed the news, saying: “The go-ahead is great news. It’s the right decision to ensure a clean and renewable energy supply. It’s a game changer for Somerset’s economy too.”
Hinkley will be a crucial part of the UK’s future energy mix, providing 7% of the country’s total electricity needs when up and running. It is also expected to create 25,000 jobs.
Councillor Duncan McGinty, Leader of Sedgemoor District Council had a private meeting with the Prime Minister yesterday (Wednesday, 14th September), along with Bridgwater and West Somerset MP, Ian Liddell-Grainger.
Cllr McGinty said: “I was very grateful to the Prime Minister for the opportunity to tell her first hand about the local perspective of the positive impacts of Hinkley Point C across Sedgemoor, Somerset and the wider south-west economy and pleased that the government have concluded their review and that HPC has now got a green light. The two local councils of Sedgemoor and West Somerset recognise the very significant responsibility of hosting the first of the UK’s new nuclear power stations and will continue work with both the Government and EDF Energy to ensure that the benefits to their communities are long-lasting.”
He added: “We are so pleased that the review that the Prime Minister called for in July has been concluded and that the decision by the Government is to back the building of Hinkley Point C.”
“Whilst we await to hear the detail of the decision from Government, Sedgemoor District Council is ‘Hinkley-ready’ and have staff in place to support and implement the project to maximise benefit to local people and businesses as well as minimise impacts.”
“This decision now gives a sound basis for a green light for the project after many false dawns and we can get on with all the plans that we have been working on for the past eight years. Hinkley Point C will be the UK’s largest engineering and construction project in modern times. Sedgemoor District Council, together with partners, will continue working towards maximising local benefits but being mindful of the mitigating measures that will be required.”
Leader of Somerset County Council John Osman said the decision is a “once in a generation” opportunity and will “bring unprecedented investment and job creation to the county and the wider region”.
County Councillor David Hall, cabinet member for business and inward investment, said the plants will be the catalyst for economic growth in Somerset: “During construction alone, the project is expected to bring £200m to the local economy.”
Roy Pumphrey of the Stop Hinkley Campaign said: “Bridgwater will not know what has hit it when, and if, the real work on the power station should it ever start, begins. Once the thousands of vans, hundreds of buses… are all on the roads Bridgwater will become a no go area as far as access is concerned.”
Emma Gibson from Greenpeace said there is ‘huge uncertainly’ about Hinkely C and it would be better to ‘invest in renewable energy which is cheaper and more reliable’. She said: “I don’t think it’s over. The deal may still unravel and cause a great deal of concern for the people of Somerset. There is huge uncertainty around this project… it’s better to invest in renewable energy – it’s cheaper and more reliable.”
Chief executive of Visit Somerset John Turner said the “eyes of the world will be on Somerset” and they are getting ready to “welcome probably the largest workforce coming into the region”.
Burnham’s Member of the European Parliament, Julie Girling, also welcomed the decision. “I think it was only right that the new Prime Minister should want to satisfy herself over the cost and security matters involved in a huge investment from China.”
“But I am delighted the result is a green light. As someone who works closely on environmental issues I am convinced that nuclear has to play a key part in a clean, green power mix. When the scheme goes ahead it will mean a major boost for jobs and the economy of our region for many years to come.”
Dale Edwards, Chief Executive of Somerset Chamber of Commerce, said: “The government’s confirmation of the green light for Hinkley Point C is tremendous news for the region, signalling the start of a project that will bring enormous investment, the creation and security of many thousands of jobs, and huge benefits for the county as a whole through improved infrastructure and phenomenal business opportunities.”
“It is extremely gratifying to finally get confirmation that the project will happen, giving local businesses the opportunity to be part of Europe’s largest infrastructure project and build a legacy that will benefit future generations.”
“Hinkley Point C is expected to be worth over £200million per year to the regional economy during the years of core construction activity, and almost £4billion over the lifetime of the project.”
“The substantial investment and opportunities this will bring for local businesses are the culmination of many years of sustained collaboration with EDF Energy to develop a robust supply chain that can deliver this major infrastructure project. While over £465million of contact values have already been awarded to businesses in Somerset and the South West as a result of the supply chain activity, today’s announcement is likely to be the stimulus that will really kick-start the benefits and opportunities that this project will bring.”
Worries about over-priced electricity, Chinese security concerns, and also fears over the unproven design of the two new reactors prompted the decision to be postponed in July.
But during her recent visit to the G20 summit in China this month, Prime Minister Theresa May defended the delay, insisting it was down to “the way I operate” because she wanted a fresh look at the evidence.
The decision on investment was approved by EDF’s board in July, and was agreed in principle with China during the state visit by President Xi Jinping to the UK in October 2015. France’s EDF has already agreed to pay for two-thirds of the project, with China paying one-third as well as using its designs for additional power stations.