Hinkley Point nuclear plant: The key facts

Plans for the first new nuclear power station in the UK have finally got the go ahead today.

However, the deal has been controversial in many quarters.

Here is the background on the Hinkley Plant and why it has taken to long to agree the works.

  • Why does the UK need a new power plant?

New power sources are needed to keep the lights on as a number of elderly and highly polluting energy plants are closed down.

A number of coal-fired power plants and nuclear reactors have closed in recent years and the government has pledged to phase out highly-polluting coal plants by 2025 as it cuts carbon emissions.

Nuclear currently supplies 20% of our electricity but most reactors will have closed by 2030.

  • What are the arguments for a nuclear plant at Hinkley?

Hinkley will provide predictable supply of power - unlike some renewable technologies - and nuclear is one of the lowest-carbon electricity sources available.

Nuclear currently supplies 20% of our electricity but most reactors will have closed by 2030.

  • What are the arguments against it?

There are concerns that consumers will end up paying dearly for energy from Hinkley under the subsidy deal signed on the plant, while others expressed security fears over China's role in its design and construction.

Energy campaigners have also pointed out that renewable energy sources such as a solar and wind power have become cheaper since the deal on Hinkley was first signed.

  • Who will build the Hinkley Point C plant?

The plants will be built by French company EDF in partnership with state-owned Chinese power company CGN.

  • How much energy will it generate?

It would provide 7% of the UK's generation needs for 60 years.

  • When will Hinkley C start generating electricity?

The latest schedule will see it begin generating power in 2025, a lot later than the promise made by EDF boss Vincent de Rivaz in 2007, who said Britain would be cooking Christmas turkeys on new nuclear power by 2017.

Credit: Reuters
  • Why have there been so many delays?

There were issues with financing the £18 billion project by EDF, resolved after the French government offered financial backing.

French unions have raised doubts about Hinkley, and problems with two nuclear plants under construction in France and Finland have also had an impact on the project.

The new prime minister Theresa May threw another spanner in the works after she unexpectedly announced a review after taking over from David Cameron earlier this year.

  • Does nuclear have public support?

The latest surveying from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy suggests just over a third of people (36%) back the technology, while a little over a fifth (22%) are opposed.

Some 42% are neutral or don't know.

  • What has been the reaction to the approval?

Energy Minister Greg Clark described it as a "major step forward" and an £18 billion investment in the economy creating 26,000 jobs, while China and France also celebrated finally sealing the deal.

However, some MPs have argued that the deal is still too costly.

Environmental charity Greenpeace said the approval had saved the government "political embarrassment" but failed to provide cheap eco-friendly power.