LONDON, March 22 (Reuters) – Britain’s approval for the planned Sizewell C nuclear plant came under scrutiny in London’s High Court on Wednesday, as campaigners’ lawyers argued the government failed to assess the environmental impact of the project.
The building of the plant by French utility EDF (EDF.PA) in southeast England, capable of producing around 3.2 gigawatts of electricity or enough to power around 6 million homes, was approved in July.
The British government said in November that it would support Sizewell C with around 700 million pounds ($855 million) while taking a 50% stake during its development phase.
At the time, Business Minister Grant Shapps said the plant would help Britain move towards “greater energy independence,” which has been a key focus since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent energy costs surging.
However, campaign group Together Against Sizewell C argues that Britain unlawfully failed to consider alternative solutions to meeting Britain’s emissions targets other than nuclear power.
Its lawyer David Wolfe argued in court filings that the government wrongly considered Sizewell C would reduce emissions by 2035, despite the fact that “the earliest that one of the two reactors could be operational would be the end of 2033” on EDF’s “best-case scenario”.
Government lawyers said in written arguments that the government had “considered alternative means of energy generation but … did not consider that they met the objectives of the project”.
EDF subsidiary NNB Generation Company (SZC) Limited, which was given the go-ahead for the project in July, also opposed the legal challenge.
Its lawyer Hereward Phillpot said in court filings that any alternatives to meeting Britain’s emissions targets “were required to deliver against the urgent national need for new nuclear power”.
He said the schedule for the project anticipates that both reactors will be operational by mid-2034.
EDF has said Sizewell C could cost 20% less than its Hinkley Point C project in southwest England – Britain’s first new nuclear plant in more than two decades – which is currently budgeted at around 33 billion pounds ($40 billion).
Reporting by Sam Tobin
Editing by Bernadette Baum
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