Boris Johnson tells Sunak to ‘get on’ with slow nuclear power build

Former Tory PM takes new swipe at his successor over stalled progess on Britain’s energy independence

Adam Forrest
Political Correspondent
Friday 29 December 2023 11:46
UK approves Hinkley Point nuclear power plant

Boris Johnson has piled pressure on Rishi Sunak to speed up Britain’s sluggish nuclear power development in a fresh attack on the PM.

The embittered former Tory leader has criticised the lack of progress on nuclear energy and told Mr Sunak to “get on with it”.

Mr Johnson – who has made a series of swipes at his successor – only made a key investment in EDF’s planned new nuclear plant in his final weeks at No 10.

It comes as documents reportedly show crucial government deadlines to boost the nation’s nuclear energy output have been missed – under both Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak.

The launch of Great British Nuclear (GBN), the governmental body tasked with boosting the industry, was finished six months after an end of 2022 deadline.

Grants for new projects were finally announced this month, a year after a 2022 deadline, according to the i. And the government also failed to meet a spring 2023 deadline for at least one project to get a final investment decision.

Mr Johnson told the newspaper he was worried about stalled progress, as he tries to claim nuclear energy development as one of his “legacy” projects.

The former PM said: “Nuclear power must be part of the low-carbon baseload. I urge the government to get on with it and deliver on Great British Nuclear.”

He added: “If we want to avoid future spikes in energy prices we must generate more of our own electricity.”

Boris Johnson has launched a series of attacks on Rishi Sunak since leaving No 10

With investment approval decisions on two nuclear projects set to be made by October 2024, industry figures are believed to be worried about delays in progress building new small modular reactors (SMRs).

In July, then-energy secretary Grant Shapps floated a potential £20bn plan backing the development of smaller scale nuclear technology projects.

The £20 billion is not a spending commitment – but the plan is to help successful companies tap in to both government and private money to help develop the plants.

In one of his final moves before leaving No 10, Mr Johnson committed £700m to Britain to French firm EDF’s planned Sizewell C nuclear plant.

He said it would be “absolute madness” not to help the project get “over the line”. But Labour criticised Mr Johnson’s energy plans as “too little to late”

The former Tory PM has continued to criticise various policy moves made by his successor – suggesting Mr Sunak had destroyed vital parts of his legacy.

He has said HS2 had “become a total joke” after its northern leg was scrapped – as first revealed by The Independent – and argued that the levelling up agenda had been “all but forgotten”, while social care reform had been “junked”.

Mr Johnson criticised Mr Sunak’s post-Brexit deal with the EU on Northern Ireland – claiming it doesn’t “take back control” from Brussels. And accused the PM of “dragging” his feet over weapons for Ukraine.

Earlier this month Mr Johnson warned that the Tories are “drifting to defeat” – arguing that they were now in a worse position than when he was in charge.

But he was chastised by top political experts. Pollsters pointed the finger at the former PM for sparking the collapse in Tory fortunes with Partygate – the scandal which eventually saw him thrown out of No 10.

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