The UK government has revealed its plans for the expansion of nuclear power, including ambitions for a third gigawatt-scale power plant comparable to Hinkley and Sizewell C.

Sizewell A and B. A final investment decision is yet to be made on Sizewell C.
Sizewell A and B. A final investment decision is yet to be made on Sizewell C. - Adobe Stock

Billed as the Civil Nuclear Roadmap, the plans also include support for the roll out of small modular reactors, as well as £300m investment in the domestic production of HALEU, a specific type of nuclear fuel currently only produced in Russia. In total, the programme is expected to increase the UK’s nuclear capacity to 24GW by 2050. This would be a fourfold increase on today’s figure and enough to meet around a quarter of the UK’s anticipated electricity demand.

“We’re making the biggest investment in domestic nuclear energy in 70 years,” claimed Claire Coutinho, Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero. “Our £300m plan to produce advanced nuclear fuel in the UK will supply nuclear plants at home and overseas – further weakening the Kremlin’s grip on global energy markets.

“From large gigawatt projects to small modular reactors, the UK’s wider nuclear revival will quadruple our nuclear capacity by 2050 – helping to power Britain from Britain.”

According to the government, decisions will be made every five years between 2030 and 2044 on 3-7GW of new nuclear capacity. It’s claimed that developers will also be allowed to explore the possibilities of new sites for nuclear infrastructure, as well as engage with new funding models that could potentially lead to cheaper energy for consumers down the line.

However, questions over the cost of new nuclear persist. Hinkley C’s estimate has recently risen to £33bn, up from £26bn in 2015. In parallel, a final investment decision has yet to be made on Sizewell C. Despite these doubts, the government’s new plans have been welcomed by the nuclear sector, which insists that gigawatt-scale and SMR nuclear is essential for the UK’s future energy security.

“We welcome the publication of the roadmap,” said Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association. 

“The commitment to explore a further large-scale project beyond Sizewell C in parallel with the deployment of SMRs is very welcome. We will need both large and small nuclear at scale and at pace for our energy security and net zero future. Allowing developers to engage with the government about Regulated Asset Base funding models should also make it cheaper to finance projects, cutting costs to the consumer. Ensuring a programmatic approach, with decisions on 3-7GW in each five-year period, provides greater clarity and predictability, which in turn enables supply chain investment and more UK content in the future fleet.  

“We also welcome the firm commitment to get rid of Russian fuel, and we hope that this will be followed by immediate sanctions and a legislative ban to set an example to our allies and set the commercial conditions for major investment in UK nuclear fuel manufacturing capability.”