A decision on whether to proceed with the Sizewell C nuclear power station has been delayed until the beginning of July.
The government had been set to decide by 25 May whether to move forward with the £20bn project. But in a written statement issued on Thursday, parliamentary under secretary for small business Paul Scully said he was setting a “new deadline” of 8 July for the decision.
“This is to ensure there is sufficient time to fully consider further information provided by the applicant and interested parties in response to the secretary of state’s post-examination consultation,” he added.
The Suffolk-based project needs a development consent order to be granted before it can go ahead.
Charlotte Childs, national officer at energy trade union GMB, said in response to the delay that the two-reactor station is “essential” for meeting the country’s energy needs.
“The UK’s nuclear programme has been delayed too many times due to political decisions and we need confirmation for this essential project,” she added.
“Thousands of highly-skilled workers are currently building Hinkley Point C or supplying components through its supply chain. There is a real risk that those jobs will be lost if there isn’t a programme of work.
“This project is essential for jobs and skills, and hitting our environmental targets – we need to be clear that there can be no net zero without new nuclear.”
Sizewell C could power the equivalent of about six million homes.
Uncertainty has plagued the project, despite repeated government pledges to commit to nuclear energy. Just this month, prime minister Boris Johnson told BBC Radio Suffolk that the power station would be brought forward “as fast as possible”.
Seven of eight nuclear power plants in the UK will be switched off by 2030. Currently, French state-owned energy firm EDF is building Hinkley Point C, which is expected to be operational by 2026.
In October 2021, business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng laid out new plans to fund nuclear power plant construction, which hinted that Sizewell C would go ahead. He followed that up in January by announcing an initial government contribution of £100m to Sizewell C, with the aim of developing the project and boosting investor confidence.
In March, the government was understood to have committed to taking a 20 per cent stake in the project, which was to be matched by EDF.