A GREEN light for new nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset would unlock a wealth of “collateral benefits” for the UK, from jobs to foreign direct investment according to Lady Barbara Judge, the former chair of the UK Atomic Energy Authority.
It would also signal to the world that the UK is open for business following the referendum, she believes, and set the country up as a leader in the nuclear energy industry.
The board of EDF, the French energy giant which is planning to build the reactors, is due to meet today to make a decision on their investment case.
If given the go ahead, the two reactors are expected to create an estimated 25,000 jobs and 1,000 apprenticeships during the construction phase. The project to create Britain's first new nuclear plant in decades would be worth £1bn a year to the UK.
“Hinkley Point would open the door to the construction of subsequent nuclear projects, particularly those of NuGen and Horizon,” said Judge, who is chair of the Institute of Directors.
She added: “As well as giving impetus to these projects, it would show the rest of the world that the UK is open for business after the referendum. Now couldn't be a better time for that. It would show that we are resilient and that we can operate outside the EU."
One third of the £18bn capital costs of the project are being met by Chinese investors. Final go ahead would seal a deal with the Chinese that is likely to attract other inward investment from China into the UK, Judge said. They are also interested in building another reactor at Bradwell in Essex.
Both the UK and French governments are understood to be behind the ambitious build, which would provide a low carbon energy and be a cornerstone of the UK energy mix.
But affordability concerns over Hinkley Point have caused ructions at the top of EDF.
Earlier this week, shareholders in EDF approved plans to issue new shares to raise E4bn (£3.4bn) to help pay for the nuclear plant.