Major union Unite has called on the government to approve plans for Sizewell C nuclear power station on the Suffolk coast – arguing that 10,000 jobs are “in the balance” over the project.
The union is backing the Sizewell C Consortium of major contractors, which has said that the failure to build EDF’s proposed plant could cost the construction industry thousands of jobs.
The warning comes after Japanese firm Hitachi pulled out of the Wylfa nuclear power plant in Wales, which was quickly followed by Horizon Nuclear announcing it will be ceasing its activities to develop two projects in the UK.
Suffolk County Council has already said it cannot give its backing to the Sizewell C project – which is estimated to cost £20billion – without changes to the plans.
Other groups, like the RSPB and the Stop Sizewell C campaign, have made clear their opposition to the project on a number of grounds, including the environmental impact.
The government has already said it is “considering a range of financing solutions” for Sizewell C, one of which could involve it taking a stake in the project.
China General Nuclear Corporation has a 20% stake in the scheme, though tensions between UK and China have escalated in recent months.
Peter McIntosh, Unite’s national officer for energy, said: “The Sizewell C Consortium makes a strong case for ministers to get their skates on and approve the go-ahead for the new nuclear power station in Suffolk – thousands of highly skilled jobs hang in the balance.
“It is essential that a skills bridge is created from Hinkley Point, being constructed in Somerset, to Sizewell to ensure that the skills and the knowledge that have been acquired on the initial project can be transferred to Sizewell and are not lost to the country’s skill base.
“Such skills will be in high demand as the economy emerges into the post-Covid world.
“It has not been a good week for the UK’s nuclear industry with Hitachi deciding to withdraw from the Anglesey project – we can’t continue with this level of uncertainty afflicting a sector of which Britain was once the world leader.
“Unite repeats its call to business, energy and industrial strategy secretary Alok Sharma to bring forward the long-awaited energy White Paper which will guarantee that nuclear power is a vital part of the energy ‘mix’ in the years ahead, creating a source of ‘clean’ and reliable electricity, as well as a new generation of skilled ‘green’ employment.”
However, campaigners against nuclear power station project have called on Unite to not put pressure on the government during the planning process.
Charles Macdowell, of Stop Sizewell C and B1122 Action Group, said: “It’s utterly wrong for Unite to be pressing the government to approve Sizewell C while there is a planning process underway that would be totally prejudiced by such a decision.
“With so many individuals and groups opposing the project, and Suffolk County Council unable to support it, it’s vital EDF’s proposals receive detailed scrutiny, especially the unproven claims of economic benefit and jobs for local people, which are undermined by compelling evidence of job losses in tourism.”