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Boris Johnson’s splashy style still avoids the costs, lack of financial commitments for nuclear power development

Garden bridges, routemaster buses, oven-ready Brexit deals…Prime
Minister Boris Johnson is no stranger to eye-catching pledges and, in
fairness, he occasionally achieves them. His latest media-friendly
commitment for “big new bets” on nuclear is typical Johnsonian
politics: brash, bold and intentionally vague.

This is reflected in the UK’s nuclear strategy – which is powered by enthusiasm but weakened by
a lack of details. On the one hand, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has
brought in the Regulatory Asset Base (RAB) model to power the construction
of projects with public money.

The government has also encouraged
Rolls-Royce’s plan to build small modular reactors (SMRs) across the
country, and has approved plans for light water reactor Sizewell C, while
the much-delayed Hinkley Point C is expected to open in 2026.

However – there remains no specific target for the UK’s nuclear capacity – and
the financial commitments remain threadbare. Its net zero ten-point plan
published last October only includes up to £385m for an Advanced Nuclear
Fund, and £170m for research and development on next-gen technology such
as Advanced Modular Reactors (AMRs) that could unlock hydrogen and
synthetic fuels. For context, Hinkley Point C is estimated to have cost
£23bn. The hesitancy from the Chancellor raises a key question: is bulking
up nuclear power to ensure supply security even a feasible goal?

 City AM 22nd March 2022

March 24, 2022 - Posted by | politics, UK

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