Ministers handed new powers to fast-track nuclear plants in Britain

Boris Johnson hints at new nuclear commitments as Britain faces energy bills crisis

The Hinkley Point C nuclear plant is the first to be built in Britain for more than 20 years. Getty
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UK ministers will be handed new powers to speed up the approval of major infrastructure projects such as nuclear power plants and offshore wind farms.

The announcement came as outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson hinted at new commitments on nuclear energy before he leaves office on Tuesday.

Under the changes, projects considered as "nationally significant infrastructure" will be subject to a fast-track review process so that construction can start more quickly.

The government said subsequent changes would also be handled more quickly so that minor tweaks to a project do not hold it up for months.

"Particularly in a time of high inflation, things need to be done more quickly or costs of major infrastructure projects will rise," Levelling Up Secretary Greg Clark said.

"These changes will help deliver new infrastructure more quickly, by speeding up the planning process which often moves too slowly."

The desire to speed up energy projects in Britain comes against the backdrop of a mounting cost-of-living crisis, caused in part by reliance on gas and electricity imports and made worse by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The government announced in April that it would treble planned nuclear power generation, invest in large-scale plants and promote a new generation of smaller reactors to produce more energy in Britain.

A new nuclear power station, Sizewell C, was given the final go-ahead in July and there is speculation that Mr Johnson could announce government funding for the project before he leaves office.

"People do care about this. They want to know that we are going to have a long-term British energy security strategy. And we are," Mr Johnson said on Tuesday.

"We are putting in more nuclear. You are going to be hearing more about that later this week. And we are putting in absolutely shedloads of wind power as well."

Liz Truss, the favourite to succeed Mr Johnson when the winner of the Conservative leadership race is announced, has said she would increase North Sea oil and gas production in a push for long-term energy security.

Both she and rival candidate Rishi Sunak have been critical of solar power, while Mr Sunak promised to scrap plans for a modest increase in onshore wind power generation.

Updated: August 31, 2022, 8:26 AM