The government will sign the initial investment contracts for Sizewell C within weeks, the Chancellor has said.

As he announced the autumn financial statement in Westminster, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said the Government will proceed with the new £25billion nuclear plant on the Suffolk coast.

“There is only one way to stop ourselves being at the mercy of international gas prices: energy independence combined with energy efficiency,” he said.

Mr Hunt said “Britain is a global leader in renewable energy” but insisted “we need to go further, with a major acceleration of home-grown technologies like offshore wind, carbon capture and storage, and, above all, nuclear”.

He went on: “This will deliver new jobs, industries, and export opportunities and secure the clean, affordable energy we need to power our future economy and reach net zero by 2050. So I can today announce that the Government will proceed with the new nuclear plant at Sizewell C.

“Subject to final Government approvals, the contracts for the initial investment will be signed with relevant parties, including EDF, in the coming weeks, it will create 10,000 highly skilled jobs and provide reliable, low-carbon, power to the equivalent of 6 million homes for over 50 years.

“Our £700 million investment is the first state backing for a nuclear project in over 30 years and represents the biggest step in our journey to energy independence.”

A spokeswoman for Sizewell C said: "We are delighted the Government has reaffirmed its commitment to Sizewell C today and look forward to progressing the project, delivering thousands of rewarding jobs for local people and a massive boost for skills and the supply chain in the region.

"Suffolk has shown its support with 61% in favour of Sizewell C and with Government support our work can continue to deliver on our commitments to the county."

Paul Simon, head of public affairs and strategic communications at Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said the decision was "good news" for the county's small and medium-sized firms and would help to improve the skills within Suffolk's workforce.

Therese Coffey, MP for Suffolk Coastal, also welcomed the news, but added: "I recognise that there are elements of the planning application that need to be carefully scrutinised - not least in terms of water supply - and I’m seeking a meeting with the Secretary of State to ensure the conditions are fulfilled.

"Now that we have certainty about Sizewell, it’s even more important that BEIS, National Grid and the planning process recognise the cumulative impact of energy infrastructure on our coast in any further applications.”

But Alison Downes, from Stop Sizewell C, said she wanted to see further details about what exactly the government would be signing.

She said: "If the Chancellor is looking for cheap, reliable, energy independence, he is backing the wrong project, as Sizewell C’s ultimate cost and technical reliability are very uncertain and building it is reliant on French state-owned EDF.

"Greenlighting Sizewell C also loads more tax onto struggling households, who would be forced to pay a nuclear levy on bills for a decade before they could light a single lightbulb.

"Despite the Chancellor's statement, Sizewell C still needs financing, and with at least a year before it's decided whether it will finally go ahead, we'll keep fighting this huge black hole for taxpayers’ money, when there are cheaper, quicker ways to get to net zero.”