First new British nuclear power plant for a generation moves a step closer

The construction of the first new nuclear power plant in the UK for a generation moved a step closer today as George Osborne announced fresh investment in the £24.5 billion project.

The Chancellor made the announcement while on a five-day tour of China, where he is hoping to secure further funding for Britain's nuclear industry.

Mr Osborne announced a new government guarantee worth £2 billion to underwrite the proposed nuclear electricity generation plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset, which is due to be built partly with Chinese money.

The power plant is expected to supply 7% of the UK's electricity needs, powering around six million homes, and create thousands of jobs.

The Treasury said the new plant would boost Britain's energy security and open the door to unprecedented collaboration in the UK and China on the construction of new nuclear power stations.

The site could provide 7% of the electricity that the UK needs upon completion. Credit: PA

"Britain was the home to the very first civil nuclear power stations in the world and I am determined that we now lead the way again," said Mr Osborne.

"I am delighted to announce this guarantee for Hinkley Point today and to be in China to discuss their investments in Britain’s nuclear industry.

"It is another move forward for the golden relationship between Britain and China – the world's oldest civil nuclear power and the world's fastest growing civil nuclear power."

The new infrastructure guarantee is intended to pave the way for a final investment decision later this year by French company EDF, supported by China General Nuclear Corporation and China National Nuclear Corporation.

The European Commission approved the construction of the site in October 2014.

Energy Secretary Amber Rudd, accompanying the Chancellor on his visit to China, described new nuclear power as "a vital part of our long-term plan to provide secure, clean energy supplies that hard-working families and businesses can rely on in the decades ahead".

However, Greenpeace UK chief scientist Doug Parr dismissed the guarantee as a "PA smokescreen" to hide the reality that Hinkley Point is "bogged down in a swamp of troubles".

The GMB union welcomed the financial guarantee, but warned it should not be linked to a green light for the use of Chinese nuclear technology at Bradwell in Essex.

Hinkley Point in Somerset is set to be the site for the new nuclear power station. Credit: PA

GMB national secretary for energy Brian Strutton said: "Chinese nuclear technology is unproven and no UK government should even consider allowing it to be used in a new nuclear power station 60 miles from London.

"We have the technology and funding in the UK and MPs must insist that the UK Government goes ahead with that."

Greenpeace UK chief scientist Dr Doug Parr dismissed the announcement, calling it a "PR smokescreen" to "give the impression the project is moving forward" when it's "bogged down in a swamp of troubles."

ITV News' Lucy Watson asks George Osborne why he is undeterred by China's volatile market: