French energy firm EDF is spearheading the controversial Sizewell C scheme, which it argues would drive economic growth and help shield the region as the UK economy shrinks by up to 14% amid fallout from the coronavirus crisis.
A new nuclear power station at Leiston would bring jobs, skills and business to the region – in much the same way as its sister site at Hinkley Point C in Somerset, it says. But campaigners opposing the plant say those jobs would be costly.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is expecting the world economy to contract by 6% this year – but the UK is on track to do far worse.
It could shrink by 14% if it is hit by a second wave of coronavirus later this year, the international organisation warns.
The UK economy is set to be the hardest hit by the pandemic among the world’s developed countries, it says.
Britain’s economy was likely to slump by 11.5% in 2020 - but could do even worse.
The OECD expects falls of 11.4% are expected in France, 11.1% in Spain, 11.3% in Italy, 6.6% in Germany, 7.3% in the US and 2.6% in China, the organisation predicts.
EDF wants Sizewell C to be a replica of Hinkley - vastly reducing its build costs because of lessons learned in the Somerset site’s construction.
Hinkley is already netting vast economic benefits for the region, it argues, and recently smashed its £1,5bn spend target for local businesses in the south-west of England.
Humphrey Cadoux Hudson, managing director of Sizewell C, said: “Sizewell C will make a material, positive contribution to local employment, skills, and businesses, and can create a catalyst for change.
“We can see that Hinkley Point C is delivering this in the south west where over 600 apprentices are already working on the project developing sustainable, long-term, well-paid careers. We are committed to deliver the same benefits for Suffolk.”
A socio-economic report for Hinkley showed that to date, £1.7bn had been spend with more than 1,100 companies across the region.
“This is more relevant than ever given the economic projections for the UK,” said a spokeswoman for Sizewell C.
But Alison Downes of campaign group Stop Sizewell C said the proposed nuclear plant had “no place” in the post-pandemic recovery and warned the cost of each job created would be costly.
“The majority of short-term jobs in construction will be filled by people from outside the area, and displace staff from local businesses, plus the build would damage tourism at a time when there is a real opportunity for a surge in domestic holidays,” she claimed.
“The boom-and-bust nature of big infrastructure projects does not create lasting wealth as Leiston can testify to.”
Electricity customers could end up footing the up-front costs, meaning EDF would be taking money out of the economy to the tune of £16bn to £18bn for just 900 long-term jobs, she claimed.
An EDF spokeswoman contested the claims, adding that the funding mechanism was yet to be decided.
Decades of skilled jobs would be created, she said, and about a third of the construction workforce would be local.
The planning application for Sizewell C was submitted in May 2020. Objectors have secured a judicial review over plans to fell woodland ahead of its construction.