The government had been set to decide by 25 May whether to move forward with the £20bn project to build two EPR units supplied by France’s state energy company EDF.
But in a written statement, parliamentary undersecretary for small business Paul Scully said the government needed more time to look at new information and has pushed back the deadline for its final decision to no later than 8 July.
“This is to ensure there is sufficient time to fully consider further information provided by the applicant and interested parties in response to the secretary of state’s post-examination consultation,” Mr Scully said.
Charlotte Childs, national officer at energy trade union GMB, said in response to the delay that the two-reactor station is essential for meeting the country’s energy needs.
“The UK’s nuclear programme has been delayed too many times due to political decisions and we need confirmation for this essential project,” she added.
Sizewell C is part of a fleet of new nuclear power plants at the heart of the government’s energy security strategy, in which prime minister Boris Johnson set out aims to boost new nuclear power, offshore wind and hydrogen.
Mr Johnson said after a recent visit to the Hartlepool nuclear power station that nuclear is “absolutely crucial to weaning us off fossil fuels”, including Russian oil and gas. He said: “Instead of a new one every decade, we’re going to build one every year, powering homes with clean, safe and reliable energy.”
EDF is currently the only developer planning new nuclear projects in the UK, apart from its Chinese minority state partner, China General Nuclear, whose involvement in the sector ministers are believed to want to block. CGN has been preparing to use its Hualong pressurised water reactor, or UK HPR1000, for Bradwell B in Essex, southeast England.
Reports have said the government is set to take a 20% stake in Sizewell C as it moves increase the country’s energy security against a backdrop of global instability.
In January, the government invested £100m in Sizewell C, with the aim of boosting investor confidence. This second push would take its investment up to £4bn, based on the estimated final project cost.
Last week, the UK launched a £120m government fund designed to unlock and accelerate new nuclear technologies while encouraging new players into the market.
The government said the Future Nuclear Enabling Fund will help to realise its ambition to approve eight new large-scale reactors by 2030, as outlined in the government’s energy security strategy in April.