‘I say go nuclear and go large’ says Boris in rousing energy speech at Sizewell

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits Sizewell C Nuclear Power Station. Sizewell Power Station. Picture by Rory Arnold / No 10 Downing Street

Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a speech at Sizewell on the future of energy today (1 September 2022).

The Prime Minister pledged £700 million for a new nuclear power plant on the Suffolk coast, with a call to “go nuclear and go large and go with Sizewell C.”

In his rousing speech, the PM said he was “confident” the plant would go ahead creating tens of thousands of jobs and “powering six million homes – that is roughly a fifth of all the homes in the UK.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Sizewell C Nuclear Power Station today. Sizewell Power Station. Picture by Rory Arnold / No 10 Downing Street

Below is a transcript of the speech, exactly as it was delivered:

Good afternoon everybody.

Thank you for coming today, thank you for coming everybody to Sizewell.

It’s wonderful to be here and to see this astonishing plant and to meet the staff and some of the young people who are going to be working here, already are working here.

Now, when I was a child, I had a wonderful book – a much thumbed ladybird book called the story of nuclear power,

It was published in 1972.

And I used to go through it again and again.
 
And I was enthralled to read how scientists split the atom here in the UK for the first time and they did it at the Cavendish laboratories in Cambridge.
 
And I noted that the world’s first civilian nuclear reactor, the first civilian nuclear power station was at Calder Hall in Cumbria, now of course Sellafield.

And I look back at the optimism in every page of that book and what has happened since and at the short-termism of successive British governments at their failure to do justice to our pioneering nuclear history. Their abject failure to think of the needs of future generations, above all the families that are today struggling with the cost of energy in this country.
 
I feel like one of those beautifully drawn illustrations of what happens in a nuclear pile when the graphite rods are taken out at the wrong moment.
 
My blood starts to boil and steam comes out of my ears and I think I’m going to melt down.
 
And I asked myself the question: What happened to us?
 
When Sizewell was opened in 1966 it was the eighth reactor that this country had built in just 7 years.
 
Why have we never got back to that kind of rhythm? Have we lost the gumption and the dynamism of our parents and grandparents?
 
But it gets worse.
 
When Sizewell B – fantastic white dome – was completed in 1995 it was the 5th reactor in 7 years.
 
1995 – an era that was technologically so primitive that people used things called carphones and went down to blockbusters to rent VHS videos.

Think of the colossal technical progress in other areas – and contrast the paralysis in nuclear energy.
 
How many new nuclear power stations have we built in the 27 years since?
 
How many have been connected to the grid?
 
How many slices of bread could we toast with the additional nuclear power we have created?
 
How many washing machines could we power?

How many families have been helped with extra nuclear energy?
 
The answer is, none, zero, zilch.
 
The French, they have loads of nuclear power stations already, they’ve built four more since 1995 – bringing their total reactor fleet up to about 56, the Indians have added about 12 and the Chinese have built more than 50 additional nuclear reactions since 1995!
 
And you know why we have failed? It’s not even as though we have some cultural aversion to nuclear power.

I just met those nice protestors outside – it wasn’t some atomkraft nein danke – they seem to be objecting to the disruption to the roads, it’s pure nimbyism out there.

I will diagnose the problem.
 
It’s called myopia. It’s called short-termism.
 
It’s a chronic case of politicians not being able to see beyond the political cycle.
 
Tell that to British businesses and industries that are desperately short of affordable and reliable electricity.
 
Tell that to the families struggling with the cost of heat and light this winter.
 
It is because of that kind of myopia that here in the country that first split the atom we have only 15 per cent of our electricity from nuclear – and it is falling.
 
Whereas in France it is at 70 per cent.
 
And we ask ourselves why France is more self reliant than we are when it comes to energy?
 
Why they have found it relatively easier to hold down their costs?
 
And yes nuclear always looks – when you begin, it always looks relatively expensive to build and to run. But look at what is happening today, look at the results of Putin’s war.

It is certainly cheap by comparison with hydrocarbons today.
 
In fact if Hinkley Point C were already running already this year, it’s been delayed for ages and ages of course, it would be cutting fuel bills by £3 billion.

I’ll say that again – if Hinkley Point C were running now, it would be cutting fuel bills by £3 billion.
 
So you have to look ahead. And you have to beware of the false economy.
 
If you have an old kettle that takes ages to boil, it may cost you £20 to replace it.
 
But if you get a new one you will save ten pounds a year every year on your electricity bill.
 
I remember when the government finally did the deal on Hinkley C – in fact by then I was already sitting in the cabinet and I remember some people protesting that the strike price of £92.50 per kilowatt hour was very, very expensive.
 
It doesn’t look so expensive today.
 
That is why we must pull our national finger out and get on with Sizewell C.
 
That is why we are putting up to £700 million into the deal.

Just part of the £1.7 billion of Government funding available for developing a large-scale nuclear project to final investment stage in this Parliament, and in the course of the next few weeks I am absolutely confident that it will get over the line.
 
And we will get it over the line because it would be madness not to.
 
This project will create tens of thousands of jobs, but it will also power 6 million homes – that is roughly a fifth of all the homes in the UK.
 
So it will help to fix the energy needs not just of this generation but of the next.
 
A baby born this year will be getting energy from Sizewell C long, long after she retires.
 
And this new reactor is just a part of our Great British nuclear campaign.
 
We will build a reactor a year again.

We will build them across the country, at least eight of them, large ones and small modular reactors.
 
And of course they are not the entire solution to our energy needs – far from it.

Yes we are increasing our own domestic hydrocarbons.

We’ve got more gas out of the north sea this year than last year, considerably more, 26% more.

We are putting a big bet on hydrogen and on carbon capture and storage and because of the activism of the government we are now racing to our target – and we will hit it –  of 50 GW of offshore wind by 2030.

This is a huge amount, it’s probably half the electricity needs of the country from offshore wind.

I’ll tell everybody who thinks hydrocarbons are the only answer and we should get fracking and all that.

That offshore wind is now the cheapest form of electricity in this country.

Offshore wind is nine times cheaper than gas because of the insanity of what Putin has done and that’s why it makes sense for us to become more self-reliant.
 
And of course it is entirely clean and green.
 
So renewables are not only helping us to defeat climate change, they are also helping to keep bills lower than they would otherwise be in this crisis.

What Putin has done is to launch a kind of kamikaze attack on the world economy. He doesn’t care how much pain Russia suffers.

He believes that ultimately we will flinch, that western politicians do not have the stomach for the fight.

He believes that we will give up on Ukraine, give in to his aggression and go back to mainlining his hydrocarbons.

And I have to tell you he is wrong.

He is wrong about his assumptions about the British people.

I think he is wrong about other European governments too by the way.

I talked to Olaf Sholz last night and it is absolutely clear that Germany is resolute in moving away from dependence on Russian.

And Putin in this strategy is going to fail.

So we are helping people now with the cost of living and of course there will be more cash to come in the months ahead.

Substantial sums – that’s absolutely clear.

But now even more important our British energy security strategy of Great British nuclear is rectifying the chronic mistakes of the past.
 
Taking the long term decisions that this country needs.

And I would say frankly folks over the last three years this government has done some very difficult things.

We have done some of the hardest tasks that you can set politicians.

We fixed our relations with the European Union.

We settled that argument pretty conclusively.
 
We got brexit done and took back control of our law-making even though we knew it would not be easy.
 
We opened up our economy post covid faster than any other major country because of the speed of our vaccine rollout.
 
We led the whole of Europe in helping the Ukrainians and in standing up to Putin and seeing the wisdom from the start in arming them and assisting them and at every stage of the last three years – and I hope I can say this given this will be one of my last speeches in this office… At every stage what we have tried to do is put in the things that this country will need for the long term.

To try to look at what future generations will need for their prosperity, their productivity and for their quality of life and to reduce the cost of living as well.
 
So whether that’s gigabit broadband gone up from 7% penetration to 70% of premises now.

Three new high speed rail lines.

Investing massively in this country’s ability to make its own vaccines.
 
Fixing social care.

Coming up with a solution for that problem.

I think it would be fair to say this government has not shirked the big decisions.

We have raised our eyes, we’ve looked to the horizon.
 
And I just say whoever follows me next week I know that they will do the same.
 
No more national myopia.
 
No more short termism.
 
Let’s think about our future, let’s think about our kids and grandchildren, about the next generation.
 
With the prophetic candour and clarity of someone about to hand over the torch of office, I say go nuclear and go large and go with Sizewell C.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. what a wonderful speech from Boris what a gifted politician .what a loss it will be to loose this man…you could put all the rest in a melting pot and couldn’t make one Boris out of them all. He will never be replaced and I’m afraid that the next government will be puppets to the trade unions.its already started God help the country then.

  2. I agree with John Haggerty. Boris has done some great things and there are a lot of things he has done recently that he will not have time to finish. The next Prime Minister, hopefully Liz Truss, must continue with Nuclear Power stations. We allow too many protesters ( as well as MPs) to prevent the Government from carrying out their plans.

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