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Nuclear industry ecstatic about costly UK’s nuclear policy, but in reality it is a low priority for the government


UK Net Zero Strategy puts nuclear as a low priority, Nuclear Engineering 

22 October 2021  ”………………………………. Detail on plans for nuclear

The 368-page report itself does not include much about plans for nuclear. “The net zero economy will be underpinned by cheap clean electricity, made in Britain,” it says. “A clean, reliable power system is the foundation of a productive net zero economy as we electrify other sectors – so we will fully decarbonise our power system by 2035, subject to security of supply. Our power system will consist of abundant, cheap British renewables, cutting edge new nuclear power stations, and be underpinned by flexibility including storage, gas with CCS, hydrogen and ensure reliable power is always there at the flick of a switch….

By 2035 the UK will be powered entirely by clean electricity, subject to security of supply, the report notes. One of the key policies listed there is to: “Secure a final investment decision on a large-scale nuclear plant by the end of this Parliament, and launch a new £120 million Future Nuclear Enabling Fund, retaining options for future nuclear technologies, including Small Modular Reactors, with a number of potential sites including Wylfa in North Wales.”

The report says that, “in the past year, we have already taken important action on climate change, delivering on the commitments in the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan”. With respect to nuclear, it recalls that the government  committed to delivering new and advanced nuclear power, including:

  • Pursuing large-scale nuclear projects, subject to value for money;
  • Legislating for a new financing model for nuclear projects;
  • A £385 million Advanced Nuclear Fund to enable up to GBP215 million for Small Modular Reactors; and
  • £170 million for a R&D programme on Advanced Modular Reactors.

…………….. The only detailed mention of nuclear is in the Power section (10 pages) of Chapter 3 on “Reducing Emissions across the Economy”. It constitutes just  one of 14 listed key commitments, to “Secure a final investment decision on a large-scale nuclear plant by the end of this Parliament whilst taking measures to inform investment decisions during the next Parliament on further nuclear projects as we work towards our net zero target.”

There are 43 numbered paragraphs in the section. Nuclear is mentioned in paragraph 2 (subsection “Progress to date”) as follows: 

“On delivering new and advanced nuclear power, we have committed to reaching a final investment decision on a large-scale nuclear plant this parliament, subject to value for money and approvals. We are in negotiations with the developer on Sizewell C project in Suffolk. We have since taken further steps.”

Nuclear is the subject of three small paragraphs in the sub-section “Policies and proposals”:

38. We also need to increase our nuclear capacity, which is why we said in the Energy White Paper that we will aim to bring at least one large-scale nuclear project to the point of final investment decision by the end of this Parliament, subject to clear value for money and all relevant approvals. In December 2020 we announced the start of formal negotiations on Sizewell C and those negotiations are ongoing. To facilitate a decision this Parliament, we plan to establish the Regulated Asset Base model to fund new nuclear projects at a low cost of capital, saving consumers money.

39. The government will also take measures to inform investment decisions during the next Parliament on further nuclear projects as we work towards our net zero target. This will include consideration of large-scale and advanced nuclear technologies, including Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) and potentially Advanced Modular Reactors (AMRs). As part of this, we are announcing a new £120 million Future Nuclear Enabling Fund to provide targeted support in relation to barriers to entry. Further details of how this fund will operate will be published in 2022 alongside details of a roadmap for deployment that takes into account value for money.

40. We are also providing funding for a SMR design through our £385m Advanced Nuclear Fund and are progressing plans for an Advanced Modular Reactor demonstrator in the early 2030s. Whether large- or small-scale projects, there remain a number of possible sites available for these options, including Wylfa in North Wales.

Industry reaction

The strategy was, nevertheless, enthusiastically received by the nuclear industry. Nuclear Industry Association Chief Executive Tom Greatrex said: “It is very welcome to see the government commit new money to the development of nuclear projects and set out its intention to bring Sizewell C to a Final Investment Decision. We need to invest quickly to clean up the grid by 2035 and ensure our energy security, so we look forward to seeing details of this new fund, money for SMR deployment and legislation for Regulated Asset Base financing coming forward soon.”

A US consortium led by Westinghouse and Bechtel immediately released a statement that was widely reported by the Welsh media. It noted: “We welcome the publication of the Government’s net zero strategy today and are pleased to see that nuclear power features prominently throughout the proposal as an intrinsic part of achieving the UK’s net-zero goals……………https://www.neimagazine.com/news/newsuk-net-zero-strategy-puts-nuclear-as-a-low-priority-9176564

October 23, 2021 - Posted by | politics, UK

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