UK nuclear sector calls for quick decision on new power stations

Prompt decisions on new nuclear power stations are essential if the UK is to enjoy a clean economic recovery and meet its 2050 Net Zero ambitions, according to a report published by the trade body for the UK civil nuclear industry.

UK nuclear
The view south across the Hinkley Point C Construction Site. Image: EDF Energy

The Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) report  Forty by ’50: A Nuclear Roadmap claims that  an ambitious programme of nuclear new build – based on existing and new technologies – could provide up to 40 per cent of clean power by 2050, whilst creating 300,000 jobs and generating £33bn of added annual economic value.

Nuclear currently contributes 40 per cent of the UK’s clean electricity, but demand is expected to quadruple from the replacement of fossil fuels and a boom in the electric vehicles and heating sectors.

“Net Zero needs nuclear, and the sector is developing fast,” said NIA chief executive Tom Greatrex.  “The next large-scale projects are now deliverable much more cheaply by building on repeat and tried and tested designs, capturing learnings from our new build programme, and making important changes to the way projects are financed.”

Greatrex added that giving the green light to new projects already in the pipeline would trigger a ramp-up in investment and job creation in parts of the UK facing the biggest economic challenges and clear the way for long term decarbonisation through the hydrogen economy, helping establish the UK nuclear sector as global leader in the field. “If we do nothing, we are effectively sitting on a winning hand for a greener future,” he said.

The report sets out a series of steps that will be key to delivering on this ambition which include driving down the costs of new build projects, and a clear long term commitment to new nuclear from the government.

Duncan Hawthorne, Chief Executive of Horizon Nuclear Power (which hopes to build new plants on Anglesey and at Oldbury-on-Severn in Gloucestershire) said: “This report makes clear not only the key environmental and economic role that nuclear has to play but also the steps that must be taken to ensure the sector can deliver for its communities, its workforce, and the country.”

Simone Rossie, CEO of EDF added that the Hinkley Point C project demonstrates how nuclear projects can act as a catalyst for national and regional economic recovery after the Coronavirus crisis. “Hinkley Point C…. has already delivered £1.7bn of investment into the South West, beating its target five years ahead of schedule, and created 450 new jobs since the start of the pandemic across the UK’s regions,” he said.

Commenting on the opportunities nuclear investment will create for the rest of the manufacturing sector Andy Storer, CEO of the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, said: “British companies can lead the development of new technologies such as small and advanced modular reactors and fusion power, using their manufacturing expertise and innovation to reduce the cost of the low-carbon transition while driving economic growth and creating jobs in the North of England and across our industrial heartlands. We really need to push forward now to grasp the opportunity and deliver on our clean energy commitment.”