Powerful boost to Swindon’s economy expected after Hinkley Point C nuclear plant gets approval

October 9, 2014

Swindon’s economy will get a boost from the £24.5bn Hinkley Point C nuclear power station approved this week by the European Commission, according to experts.

The controversial plant, on the Somerset coast near Bridgwater, will be Britain’s first new nuclear reactor for nearly 20 years and could create around 25,000 jobs across the region during the construction phase and in its supply chain.

The plant will be operated by French electricity giant EDF, which had already invested millions of pounds preparing the site for the station ahead of the decision. Once completed in 2023 it will generate 7% of the UK’s electricity.

Business West, the organisation that runs the Initiative in Swindon & Wiltshire, welcomed the EC’s decision, calling it “a massive economic boost for the South West”.

Director Ian Larrard said: “After many months of uncertainty, business will be very pleased that the UK’s first new nuclear power plant in decades has been given the go ahead. Nuclear power is a critical part of the UK’s future energy infrastructure mix, and will help ensure our businesses have access to secure sources of energy in the years ahead.  

“Businesses in our region will be a vital part of the supply chain opportunities on offer for this project, with the possibility that it could create up to 25,000 jobs. With a project of this magnitude and its long-term timescale many construction organisations are already on board and benefitting but the impact of this will be felt far and wide beyond the construction industry, Somerset and indeed the South West. We are committed to ensuring that local business and our wider community are positively impacted by this project going ahead.

“Britain must adopt a comprehensive, long-term strategy to guarantee the security of our energy supplies across a balanced range of sources. Only then will we see both certainty for investors and affordable energy for consumers.”

The plant has already given a timely boost to the regional commercial property market – and now it has finally received EC approval it will lead to spiralling demand for space, according to Jeremy Richards, head of property agency JLL in the South West.

“We’ve already seen this, with a major letting in Gloucester earlier this year by Horizon Nuclear Power, just one of a growing number of commercial property deals in this sector,” he said.

“EDF and many of their suppliers have significant requirements for office space in the region as a result of this project.

“The build project alone – estimated to take almost a decade and said to be bigger than Heathrow’s Terminal 5 – will deliver a huge boost to the region’s construction sector. While it will undoubtedly pose short-term challenges in terms of labour supply, the sheer scale of the project should offer the reassurance the sector needs to invest in further recruitment.”

He said as well as bringing billions of pounds of investment and hundreds of new jobs Hinkley Point C would further underline the region’s established reputation for science and engineering.

The CBI also welcomed the decision. Director-general John Cridland said it was “a significant milestone in the United Kingdom’s energy future”.

He added: “Hinkley should set the ball rolling for the UK’s nuclear new build programme, putting us on the right path to achieving a secure and sustainable energy mix.

“It represents a real opportunity for growth, with the potential to create tens of thousands of jobs for people – not just in the local community, but up and down the whole country.”

The EC had delayed giving an official green light to the plant while discussions continued with the British Government over the level of subsidy paid to EDF for electricity produced at the plant.

The EC said this week’s decision – by an undisclosed majority of its 28 Commissioners – had been made only after “substantially modifying” financial arrangements put forward by the UK to save British taxpayers’ money. It was opposed by at least five EC Commissioners.

The deal gives EDF a guaranteed a price of £92.50 per megawatt hour over the 35-year life of the plant. The subsidy is twice the current price of electricity. The EC also revealed that the cost of the plant – Europe’s largest infrastructure project – has soared from £16.5bn just two years ago to £24.5bn.

British Nuclear Industry Association chairman Lord Hutton of Furness said: “This is an important step in securing the UK’s home-grown low-carbon electricity generation, while adding jobs and prosperity to the economy.”

But Greenpeace branded it a “world record sell-out” to the nuclear industry at the expense of taxpayers and the environment. And anti-nuclear groups fear it will lead to subsidies for a new generation of power stations in the UK when some other countries are closing theirs.

Greenpeace EU legal adviser Andrea Carta said: “There is absolutely no legal, moral or environmental justification in turning taxes into guaranteed profits for a nuclear power company whose only legacy will be a pile of radioactive waste. This is a bad plan for everyone except EDF.”


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