Boris Johnson has promised £700m of government funding for a new multi-billion pound nuclear power plant, urging the country to "go large" on the project in one of his final acts as prime minister.
He announced the cash for the Sizewell C reactor during a visit to the site on the Suffolk coast on Thursday, adding he was “absolutely confident it will get over the line” in the next few weeks.
Development consent for Sizewell C - which could cost between £20bn and £30bn - was given the go-ahead by Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng in July, but negotiations over the financial investment decision were still ongoing at that stage.
Once built, it would generate enough electricity to meet the needs of around six million homes, say its operators EDF Energy.
Mr Johnson said: "I say with the prophetic candour and clarity of one who is about to hand over the torch of office: Go nuclear, go large, and go with Sizewell C."
He framed the investment as a way to improve the UK's energy security, as millions of householders face spiralling energy bills as a result of the increasing gas price, driven by the war in Ukraine.
Mr Johnson said that if the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station were running this year "it would be cutting fuel bills by £3bn".
“That’s why we need to pull our national finger out and get on with Sizewell C," he said.
“That’s why we’re putting £700m into the deal, just part of the £1.7bn of government funding available for developing a large-scale nuclear project to final investment stage FID (final investment decision) in this parliament.
“And in the course of the next few weeks, I am absolutely confident that it will get over the line, and we will get it over the line because it would be absolute madness not to.”
Construction would take place across an onshore site of 915 acres, and take between 10 and 12 years until operational. Compared to using a gas-fired power station it will reduce emissions by around nine million tonnes of CO2 every year, said its backers.
Local opposition to the proposals has been fierce, and campaigners were at Sizewell on Thursday to protest at the announcement, bearing placards reading “Wrong decision” and “It’s not too late #StopSizwellC".
The Stop Sizewell C group labelled the plant "another Boris Johnson infrastructure blowout that his successor should consign to the bin".
"When every penny matters, it's totally wrong to shackle the next Prime Minister and billions in taxpayers' money to this damaging project, whose ballooning cost, lengthy construction, failure-prone technology and long term water supply are so uncertain.
"Sizewell C would not be British, nor secure. It would be developed by an arm of a foreign government, probably with considerable foreign ownership and be reliant on overseas uranium."
The Stop Sizewell C campaign group has previously criticised “lame duck PM” Mr Johnson for pushing ahead with the project and wants his successor to ask for the decision to be looked at again.
It warned the project would not light a single lightbulb for at least a decade and taxpayers’ money could be better spent elsewhere.
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