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  • Writer's pictureLinda Andrews - Editorial Assistant, Nuse Online

Biggest Expansion Of Nuclear Power For 70 Years To Create Jobs

The government outlines plans for the biggest expansion of nuclear power for 70 years to reduce electricity bills, support thousands of jobs and improve UK energy security – including exploring building a major new power station and investing in advanced nuclear fuel production.

In the 2 years since Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, the government has doubled down on security of supply to protect the country from price volatility and 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 ambitious nuclear programme, on top of the government’s historic commitment to Sizewell C and world-leading competition to develop small modular reactor (SMR) technology.

The roadmap sets out how the UK will increase generation of this homegrown supply of clean, reliable, and abundant energy by up to 4 times to 24 gigawatts (GW) by 2050 – enough to provide a quarter of the UK’s electricity needs.

The plans include next steps for exploring a GW-scale power plant as big as Sizewell in Suffolk or Hinkley in Somerset, which are capable of powering 6 million homes each.

The government will also invest up to £300 million in UK production of the fuel required to power high-tech new nuclear reactors, known as HALEU, currently only commercially produced in Russia.

As the first country in Europe to launch a HALEU programme, the UK will lead the way from its North West production hub to provide the world with this form of uranium fuel, with the first plant aiming to be operational early in the next decade. This builds on the ambition to return uranium conversion to the Springfields nuclear fuel site, both of which are critical to pushing Putin out of the global market.

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.

The roadmap also includes a government ambition to secure 3 – 7GW worth of investment decisions every 5 years from 2030 to 2044 on new nuclear projects. The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, said:

"Nuclear is the perfect antidote to the energy challenges facing Britain - it’s green, cheaper in the long term and will ensure the UK’s energy security for the long-term."

"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 level up the country and grow our economy."

Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, Claire Coutinho, said:

"Strengthening our energy security means that Britain will never again be held to ransom over energy by tyrants like Vladimir Putin. British nuclear, as one of the most reliable, low-carbon sources of energy around, will provide that security."

"We’re 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 – 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."

Plans to streamline the development of new power stations and introduce smarter regulation could speed up the overall process and, as a result, the delivery of nuclear power in the UK. This includes allowing regulators to assess projects while designs are finalised, and better join-up with overseas regulators assessing the same technology.

Ministers will bring together the brightest and best from the nuclear industry and beyond as part of a ‘hackathon’ event to come up with ideas on how government and industry can accelerate new nuclear projects, while maintaining the highest levels of safety and security.

These plans will help build new supplies of affordable and clean domestic power so the transition to net zero doesn’t mean higher prices, protecting households from global instability.

The government is also today publishing 2 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. The proposals will attract investment in the UK nuclear sector by empowering developers to find suitable sites rather than focusing on 8 designated by government. Community engagement will remain critical to any decisions, alongside maintaining robust criteria such as nearby population densities.

Following its launch last year, Great British Nuclear (GBN) will drive the UK’s nuclear ambitions forward, including through the game-changing SMR competition which will soon invite short-listed companies to tender.

Unlike conventional nuclear reactors that are built on site, SMRs are smaller, can be made in factories, and could transform how power stations are built by making construction faster and less expensive. Alongside large gigawatt power stations, SMRs will play a key role in delivering on the expansion of UK nuclear capacity.

As well as powering homes, innovations in the nuclear sector could provide direct heat for industry, energy for green hydrogen production, and medical isotopes for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

Analysis by the Nuclear Skills Strategy Group suggests that to reach up to 24GW, the civil and defence nuclear workforce will need to double over the next 20 years – supporting around 80,000 additional skilled jobs across the UK.

The Nuclear Skills Taskforce will shortly set out plans to meet the demand of an industry - already worth £6 billion to the British economy - which is likely to include increasing the numbers of graduates and apprentices and attracting mid-careerists with relevant skills and expertise.

Minister for Nuclear Andrew Bowie said:

"The government’s investment in nuclear will ensure the UK remains at the forefront of technological developments."

"Our plans will give investors the confidence to back new UK projects, with a simpler process for locating new schemes and clear support for private sector companies developing innovative new technologies."

"By meeting a quarter of our electricity demand with nuclear, we will strengthen our energy independence, reduce bills and support jobs across the UK."

The roadmap will also confirm plans for decommissioning to make sure they remain suitable for new nuclear technologies and protect future generations from bearing the costs.

Tom Greatrex, Chief Executive of Nuclear Industry Association, said:

"We welcome the publication of the roadmap - 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. Decisions on 3-7GW in each 5 year period provide the greater clarity and predictability, which in turn enables supply chain investment and more UK content in the future fleet."

"The commitments to maximise our use of regulatory assessments already undertaken overseas will help get innovative reactor designs into construction faster and reduce the duplication in regulatory activity that eats up time for no additional benefit."

Sue Ferns, Senior Deputy General Secretary of Prospect trade union, said:

"Commitment to a long-term investment in new nuclear capacity is most welcome."

"Nuclear is an essential part of a low carbon, secure energy strategy that should also deliver good, clean jobs at scale. Investment in both GW-scale power plants as well as SMRs is critical to ensuring a nuclear renaissance, as is reducing our exposure to Russian nuclear fuel production."

"Prospect looks forward to playing an active role in delivering this mission that is critical to meeting our net zero and energy security goals."

Babcock’s CEO for Nuclear Harry Holt said:

"The UK’s Nuclear Roadmap will provide opportunities for the whole civil nuclear sector. Babcock, through our Cavendish Nuclear business, is committed to developing UK capability, jobs and skills and this is a great step in the right direction."

Carol Tansley, Vice President of UK New Build Projects at X-energy, said:

"We’re delighted this ambitious roadmap recognises the vital role in the UK energy mix for advanced modular reactors (AMRs)."

"The announcement of funding for an advanced fuel enrichment facility is also a very welcome demonstration of commitment to deliver the next generation nuclear technologies in the UK. We look forward to engaging in the forthcoming consultations to create a blueprint for successful deployment."

Gwen Parry-Jones, CEO of Great British Nuclear said:

"Since Great British Nuclear started the SMR technical selection process last July, we have moved strongly forward and are on track to complete vendor selection later this year. Shortly we will invite the six companies we have selected to submit tenders."

"The Civil Nuclear Roadmap provides a framework for GBN to help deliver more safe, clean and affordable UK nuclear power to UK consumers. Together with industry, we will enthusiastically take up the role the government has set out for us in delivering and advising across the UK’s nuclear programme. We are actively building GBN’s capability to take on the challenge ahead."

Chris O’Shea, Group Chief Executive, Centrica, said:

"The UK’s ambitious net zero targets will only be met if we utilise all of the tools at our disposal, including nuclear power generation. Centrica has invested in nuclear power generation for almost 15 years and we know the benefits it can create for customers and the country. We welcome the roadmap set out by the government today as we look to support the UK’s efforts to create a more secure, resilient energy system for the future."

Dr Fiona Rayment OBE FNucI, President of the Nuclear Institute, commented:

"I am delighted to see the publishing of the Nuclear Roadmap. It not only continues to provide a strong signal from government on nuclear, but reaffirms the only way to achieve carbon neutrality for energy whilst maintaining both energy and national security is through nuclear as a significant part of the UK energy mix."

"Reaching 24GW by 2050 is achievable but challenging and recognising the need to address the skills and capability challenges in enabling this is key. The Nuclear Institute, as the professional membership body for the sector, assists in creating this capability and we are proud to support our nuclear workforce in the years ahead."

Andrew Murdoch, UK Managing Director of Advanced Modular Reactor developer, newcleo, said:

"newcleo welcomes today’s announcements by government which offer strong support for our sector and outline a clearer future for nuclear energy policy in the UK, be it big, small or advanced. We now look forward to participating in the government’s consultations on both siting and the routes to market for advanced technologies ahead of developing our first of a kind advanced modular reactor here in the UK by 2033."

"newcleo is ready to invest billions of pounds of private money in the UK and create thousands of high value jobs in local communities with our innovative reactors. Today’s announcements help to provide the framework in which the industry and government can work together to realise the ambition to deliver 24 GW of much-needed nuclear power by 2050."


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