One of Britain’s biggest investors has cast doubt over whether it would back new nuclear power stations due to environmental concerns.
Aviva Investors said nuclear’s ESG (environmental, social and corporate governance) impact was “far from clear at this time”, even as the Government backs the technology to help cut carbon emissions.
Its comments highlight the challenge facing French state power giant EDF as it seeks finance for the planned £20bn Sizewell C reactor in Suffolk. EDF is in talks with the Government over public backing, but will also need to attract institutional investors.
Nuclear power does not generate carbon dioxide but investors also need to be comfortable with the management of nuclear waste, water usage, and the remote but catastrophic risk of a nuclear accident.
In response to queries from investors, Aviva Investors said: “As you are probably aware, the UK Government is looking at expanding nuclear capacity as part of its efforts to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
“We consider the potential ESG impact in all of our investment decisions. However, the ESG impact of nuclear is far from clear at this time and we are not actively involved in any such investments.”
A spokesman for Sizewell C said there was a “compelling ESG case for nuclear” given its vast production of low-carbon energy.
He added: “It is one of the safest forms of producing electricity, with a good track record in managing radioactive waste. The social benefits of Sizewell C include thousands of jobs, 1,500 apprenticeships and huge investment in the regional economy.”
The campaign group Stop Sizewell C said Aviva was “right to be concerned”. The Sizewell C site is particularly sensitive as it is within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, next to the Minsmere nature reserve, and takes in part of the Sizewell Marshes, designated a site of special scientific interest.
A Stop Sizewell C spokesman added the social benefits would be “severely undermined locally” by EDF’s plans to bring to Sizewell workers currently building EDF’s Hinkley Point C plant in Somerset.