State pension scheme Nest won’t back nuclear plans

The government’s own workplace pension scheme has ruled out investing in nuclear projects such as Sizewell C, dealing a blow to ministers’ hopes of getting new plants off the ground.

The National Employment Savings Trust (Nest) said it would not revise its policy on nuclear infrastructure investments despite an overhaul of energy policy last year. The government has set a high target of 24 gigawatts of new nuclear capacity by 2050, supplied by big power plants and small modular reactors. It is courting investors such as pension funds to back Sizewell C in Suffolk, the next big nuclear plant in the pipeline.

Nest, which was set up by the government to manage auto-enrolment pensions, said it had no direct investments in nuclear infrastructure and”no current plans to review this any time soon”. “Our fund managers … would need to be confident it offers a good investment opportunity,” a spokesman added.

Nest has about £27 billion in assets under management and 11.7 million members.

The latest development comes as ministers seek backers for Sizewell C, which is to be built by the French giant EDF at a cost of up to £30 billion. It is likely to be funded by a mixture of equity and debt. Ministers are also seeking Middle East investors to help get the project off the ground. Last year, the government put £700 million into developing Sizewell C.

Big City investors like Aviva and Legal & General have previously ruled out funding projects such as Sizewell.

The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero said: “We are confident that investors will take assurance from the government’s clear commitment to [nuclear].”

Alison Downes, executive director at Stop Sizewell C, said: “Nest’s refusal to bring its 11+ million members into line with ministers’ misguided energy policy is protecting the savings of millions of hard-pressed workers and pensioners from risky, slow, expensive Sizewell C.”