Hinkley C nuclear plant deal 'within weeks' of completion

Artist's image of the Hinkley Point C plant The planned reactor will be the third to be built on the site

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A contract to build the UK's first nuclear plant in a generation is said to be "within weeks" of completion.

Energy Minister Michael Fallon told the Financial Times he was "working intensely" to seal a deal for the £14bn Hinkley Point C reactor in Somerset.

Long negotiations have taken place with France's EDF over the price it could charge for the electricity generated.

Government approval to build the first in a planned set of new nuclear sites in the UK was granted in March.

"We're not quite there yet, but I hope we will be in the next few weeks," Mr Fallon told the FT.

Talks between EDF and the government to agree on a contract stalled earlier this year over the guaranteed price at which the electricity could be sold.

China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group has a co-operation agreement with EDF and could claim a stake of up to 49% in the project, the FT reports.

Price concern

The government's plan to meet its emissions reduction and renewable energy targets were outlined in last year's Energy Bill.

It hopes the UK can become more self-sufficient in its energy by increasing the use of both nuclear and wind power, as well as other forms of clean sources such as biomass.

He suggested the deal with EDF, which has not commented on the reports, would pave the way for further negotiations on new nuclear plants planned by Japan's Hitachi in Anglesey and Oldbury, in Gloucestershire.

There is also said to be interest in further investment in the UK's nuclear sector from companies in South Korea, China and Japan.

Mr 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."

However, environmental groups such as Friends of the Earth have raised concerns over the potentially high price for electricity the government will agree to in order to get the new plants built, and the issue of nuclear waste.

Hinkley Point C will be the third nuclear plant at the Somerset site and will have the potential to provide power for five million homes.

Hinkley A, which is now being decommissioned, began generating in 1965 and was closed down in 1999. Hinkley B, which started generating in 1976, is due to be turned off in 2023.

The last nuclear plant built in the UK was Sizewell B in Suffolk, completed in 1995.

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