A legal challenge against the government’s decision to build the Sizewell C nuclear power plant has been rejected.
The campaign group Together Against Sizewell C (Tasc) had launched a judicial review against the government’s decision to give the green light to the 3.2 gigawatt plant on the Suffolk coast, which is being built by French energy company EDF.
The group said the government had failed to consider alternatives to nuclear power to meet its emissions targets when approving the project. It cited the threat to water supplies in an area officially designated as seriously water-stressed, the threats to coastal areas from the climate crisis, and environmental damage.
Mr Justice Holgate rejected the group’s challenge against the secretary of state for energy security and net zero in a written ruling at the high court on Thursday. Holgate ruled the government’s decision was in keeping with energy policy intended to achieve “diversity of methods of generation and security of supply”.
He said the judicial review was an attempt to “rewrite the government’s policy aims by pretending that the central policy objective is … to produce clean energy, without any regard to diversity of energy sources and security of supply”.
Tasc said it would continue its campaign and was examining options for how to do so.
Sizewell got the go-ahead from government last year, when the then business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, overruled a verdict from the independent Planning Inspectorate.
The planning body had said that “unless the outstanding water supply strategy can be resolved and sufficient information provided to enable the secretary of state to carry out his obligations under the Habitats Regulations, the case for an order granting development consent for the application is not made out”.
Kwarteng’s decision to override these concerns came against the backdrop of plans to approve one new nuclear reactor a year, under an energy strategy drawn up under the former prime minister Boris Johnson. The strategy envisaged the UK sourcing up to 25% of its projected energy demand from nuclear by 2050.
The Tasc chair, Jenny Kirtley, said: “Naturally, Tasc is disappointed, but this verdict does not signal the end of our efforts. Together with our lawyers we are examining all possible options open to us and can promise our supporters that in one form or another, this campaign will continue.
Sue Ferns, a senior deputy general secretary of the trade union Prospect, said the ruling “removes one of the blocks” to getting Sizewell C started. “Nuclear must play an important role in our energy mix as we race to net zero. We now need to get on with building Sizewell C, and secure the jobs, economic benefits and clean reliable energy it will bring.”