The last time a nuclear generation centre was built in the UK was in 1995, when Sizewell B in Sussex was completed.
However, it is believed that work on the Hinkley Point C reactor in Somerset will be able to start soon, after it was revealed that the finalising of the contract is little more than a few weeks away.
It would be the third plant to be built at the Somerset site, following on from Hinkley A, which began generating power in 1965 but is now being decommissioned, and Hinkley B, which has been in operation since 1976, and is due to be turned off in 2023.
‘Not quite there yet’
Although Fallon said that the signing of the deal seems to be imminent, he was keen to point out that there are still some issues and terms that need to be thrashed out, insisting “we’re not quite there yet”.
In order to bring negotiations to a close, a deal still needs to be struck with French energy firm EDF, regarding how much it would be able to charge for energy generated at the plant.
This has been the major sticking point so far between the government and the firm, with talks already having broken down earlier this year over the guaranteed sale price for each unit of energy.
However, the energy minister insisted that he is “working intensely” to iron everything out and get work started on the plant, which it is believed will cost somewhere in the region of £14 billion.
Fracking opponents will be pleased to see these negotiations moving at last, as the lack of renewables and nuclear energy in the UK are often cited as one of the main reasons why shale gas is an absolute necessity.
Interest is becoming ‘intense’
The progress of the Hinkley project is also helping, Fallon said, to create more investment opportunities for the UK in terms of nuclear energy.
He told the Financial Times that interest in the sector was becoming “intense”, with firms from all over the world looking to follow in EDF’s footsteps and build new plants in the country.
Japan’s Hitachi has previously floated plans for the building of such plants in Anglesey and Oldbury, in Gloucestershire.
Meanwhile, it is believed that substantial interest is also coming from other nations such as South Korea and China.
Fallon said: “There’s intense interest there because people can see that finally we’re getting our civil nuclear programme moving again after the long, dead Labour years.”