The UK Government recently outlined plans for the biggest expansion of nuclear power for 70 years, an expansion it says will reduce electricity bills, support thousands of jobs, improve UK energy security — and include exploring building a major new power station and investing in advanced nuclear fuel production. The plans follow the invasion of Ukraine and see the Government ‘doubling down on security of supply to protect the country from price volatility, hostile foreign regimes, and bolster the UK’s energy independence.’
The Civil Nuclear Roadmap will give industry certainty of the future direction of the UK’s nuclear programme, on top of the Government’s commitment to Sizewell C and world-leading competition to develop small modular reactor (SMR) technology. Indeed, the roadmap sets out how the UK will increase generation of this homegrown supply of clean, reliable, and abundant energy by up to four times to 24GW by 2050 — enough to provide a quarter of the UK’s electricity needs.
The plans include ‘next steps’ for exploring a gigawatt-scale power plant as big as Sizewell in Suffolk or Hinkley in Somerset, which are capable of powering 6 million homes each. The Government says it will also invest up to £300 million in UK production of the fuel required to power high-tech new nuclear reactors; known as HALEU, it is currently only commercially produced in Russia. An additional £10 million will be provided to develop the skills and sites needed to produce other advanced nuclear fuels in the UK, helping to ‘secure long-term domestic nuclear fuel supply and support our allies’. Energy security
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “Nuclear is the perfect antidote to the energy challenges facing Britain, being green, cheaper in the long term, and will ensure the UK’s energy security. This is the right long-term decision and is the next step in our commitment to nuclear power, which puts us on course to achieve ‘net zero’ by 2050 in a measured and sustainable way. This will ensure our future energy security and create the jobs and skills we need to grow our economy.”
Claire Coutinho, Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, said: “Strengthening our energy security means that Britain will never again be held to ransom over energy. British nuclear, as one of the most reliable, low-carbon sources of energy around, will provide that security. We are making the biggest investment in domestic nuclear energy in 70 years. Our £300 million plan to produce advanced nuclear fuel in the UK will supply nuclear plants at home and overseas. From large-gigawatt projects to small modular reactors, the UK’s wider nuclear revival will quadruple our nuclear capacity by 2050, thereby helping to power Britain from Britain.”
The Government has also published two consultations, one on a new approach to siting future nuclear power stations and another on supporting the sector and encouraging private investment to roll out advanced nuclear projects. It says the proposals will attract investment in the UK nuclear sector by empowering developers to find suitable sites rather than focusing on eight designated by Government, adding that community engagement will remain critical to any decisions, alongside maintaining robust criteria such as nearby population densities.