Up to eight new nuclear reactors could be built under plans outlined in the UK government’s energy security strategy published Thursday.
Nuclear power forms the cornerstone of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s promise to “wean” Britain off foreign energy imports. Speaking during a visit to the Hinkley Point C construction site, Johnson said Britain was “the home of nuclear energy” and lamented that the nuclear industry was “more or less moribund in this country,” after decades of under-investment.
“We first split the atom in the UK, we had the first civilian nuclear power plant, we are bringing nuclear home,” he added.
Johnson also made commitments to solar and offshore wind but said onshore wind remained “controversial” due to their visual impact. However, Labour said the omission of onshore was due to pressure from Johnson’s own backbenchers and disagreements within the cabinet.
The government wants to get 25% of its energy mix – or 24 GW – from nuclear by 2050. This will require finding billions of pounds of private investment. No. 10 will also have to provide guarantees under a new “regulated asset base” funding model.
A £120 million “Future Nuclear Enabling Fund” will be launched later this month in the hopes of kickstarting investment. A new body – Great British Nuclear – will oversee the projects.
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In addition to Hinkley Point C – due for completion in 2027 – the government is looking to extend the life of Sizewell B in Suffolk. Other planned projects include Sizewell C and Wylfa, on Anglesey. Sites at Oldbury in Gloucestershire and Moorside (Sellafield) in Cumbria could get fast-tracked support. Meanwhile, Rolls-Royce wants backing for a fleet of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) – often referred to as mini-nuclear plants.
CND Vice-President and nuclear energy expert Dr Ian Fairlie said: “The Government’s apparent obsession with nuclear power is ill-considered. It should instead be concerned about fuel poverty and the recent 60% hike in energy costs. This, plus the recent NI increase and inflation, will force millions of poor people into desperate choices between eating and heating. The Government is supporting the most expensive, by far, of all the energy options available to it. How is that going to help fuel poor people? CND asks why the Government sidelines the renewables which are the fastest and most effective means of alleviating high energy costs and gas dependence and presses for the most expensive option that can do nothing for over a decade?”
CND General Secretary Kate Hudson said: “This government’s plan does nothing to tackle the immediate energy crisis facing the people of this country. Instead of investing in clean and quick to install green technologies, Boris Johnson is betting big on nuclear with the taxpayers’ money. As he said himself – the nuclear industry is ‘moribund’ in this country – so why is he trying to keep it on life support? Attempts to revive it in recent years have been an abject failure, so why try again? Nuclear power remains dangerous, expensive, dirty, and inextricably linked to its military uses. It’s time to put a stop to it.”