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National Infrastructure Commission’s landmark report calls for drastic cut in UK’s nuclear power plans

Building 26th July 2018 , The National Infrastructure Commission’s landmark report this month
seemed to sound the death knell for nuclear energy new-build, calling for a
large-scale shift to renewables by 2050 – and for only one more nuclear
power station approval by 2025. But are we really likely to get 90% of
Britain’s electricity from green sources within a generation? The NIC’s
assessment does not call for the end of all nuclear new-build aspirations.

But the direction of travel is clear: its prediction is that the cost of an
energy system heavily reliant on nuclear will, on current terms, be
marginally more expensive than one powered 80%-90% by other renewables, and
– importantly – that the cost of renewables is much more likely to fall
in future and thus ultimately work out significantly cheaper.

It is only because of all the uncertainties inherent in these predictions that it
recommends continuing with nuclear at all, albeit on a “go slow” basis,
so as not to entirely lose capacity in the industry in case the programme
has to be fired up again.

The assessment says a minimum of 50% and as much
as 90% of UK electricity should come from renewables such as wind and solar
power by 2050. And hence, that no more than one further nuclear reactor
should be given the go-ahead before 2025. This, it says “will allow the
UK to maintain, but not expand, a skills base and supply chain [and] to
pursue a high renewables mix […] without closing off the nuclear
alternative”. This may sound like a nuanced shift, but for those in the
sector it is very radical.

Few outside of environmental lobby groups have
ever proposed a UK electricity generation sector reliant 80%-90% on
renewables before. Richard Lowe, director of power in Aecom’s
environmental division, welcomes the emphasis on renewables but questions
how realistic it is. “Others such as the Committee on Climate Change have
done their own projections as to what is realistic, and I wouldn’t say
this is the midpoint of the range – it’s very much at one end of the

July 28, 2018 - Posted by | business and costs, ENERGY, politics, UK

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