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Boris Johnson promises £700m for new nuclear plant as winter energy crisis looms

·Business Reporter, Yahoo Finance UK
·4-min read
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson has been travelling across the country in what is his final few days in Downing Street before either Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak take the reins on Monday. Photo: Andrew Boyers/Pool/Reuters

Boris Johnson has promised £700m ($810m) for the Sizewell C nuclear power station project in Suffolk in his final major policy speech as UK prime minister.

Speaking on energy security on Thursday, he said he was “absolutely confident [the project] will get over the line” in the next few weeks.

"...and we will get it over the line because it would be absolute madness not to," he said.

However, he also hit out at the “paralysis over British nuclear energy," labelling the problem as “myopia”.

“It is called short-termism. It is a chronic case of politicians not being able to see beyond the political cycle.”

He called for continued reduction of Britain’s dependence on foreign fossil fuels, as well as the cost of bills to be brought down by increasing supplies of home-grown energy.

Read more: UK energy bills discount will not lower inflation, says ONS

He added: “The situation we face today is deeply worrying, but this government has already stepped in to help with billions of pounds in support. And our British energy security strategy is not just about meeting demand today, but many years hence.

“The big decisions this government has made on our energy future will bequeath a United Kingdom where energy is cheap, clean, reliable and plentiful, and made right here on British soil.

“A future where families and businesses are never again at the mercy of international markets or foreign despots.”

Johnson has been travelling across the country in what is his final few days in Downing Street before either Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak take the reins on Monday. He is seeking to cement in a legacy before he leaves.

Although the new project will alleviate current pressure on energy bills, it is key to the UK’s goal to triple nuclear capacity by 2050.

Watch: How to save money on a low income

The Sizewell C project is expected to generate 3.2 gigawatts of electricity, and power the equivalent of around 6 million homes. It is estimated that the reactor will take just under a decade to build at a cost of around £20bn.

“This project will create tens of thousands of jobs, it will also power 6 million homes — that is roughly a fifth of all the homes in the UK — so it’ll help to fix the energy needs, not just of this generation but of the next.

“A baby born this year will be getting energy from Sizewell C long after she retires and this new reactor is just a part of our Great British nuclear campaign.”

It comes as Liz Truss, the Conservative leadership front-runner, is considering a cut to business rates to alleviate the pressure of rising energy prices on small and medium-sized businesses.

Johnson's final remarks were: "We’ve raised our eyes, we’ve looked to the horizon and I just say, whoever follows me next, I know that they will do the same.

Read more: How to cut the cost of moving house

“So no more national myopia, no more short-termism, let’s think about the future, let’s think about our kids and our grandchildren, about the next generation.

“And so I say to you, with the prophetic candour and clarity of one who is about to hand over the torch of office, I say go nuclear and go large and go with Sizewell C.”

However, Ed Miliband, shadow climate change and net zero secretary, described Johnson’s words as “hollow” and “an insult to millions of families facing an energy bill crisis”.

“Whilst the oil and gas giants rake in record profits, Boris Johnson and his zombie government put their interests ahead of the British people,” he said.

“And one of the reasons bills are so high is the appalling legacy this government has on clean power. They blocked onshore wind, failed to deliver a warm homes plan to cut bills, and delayed on expanding solar and nuclear power.

Watch: Why are gas prices rising?