“Powering Up Britain”: UK Government outlines plans for Great British Nuclear

Today the UK government officially launched ‘Great British Nuclear’ (GBN), announcing it will initially be led by Simon Bowen as interim Chair and Gwen Parry-Jones as interim Chief Executive Officer.

In a report titled ‘Powering Up Britain’, the UK Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero Grant Shapps has outlined plans to deliver Great British Nuclear, supporting the increase in the UK’s nuclear capabilities to 24GW by 2050.

GBN is kicking off with a competitive process to select the best Small Modular Reactor (SMR) technologies – the first stage will launch in April 2023, with assessments and decisions made by autumn. The selected technologies will be co-funded through development, and successful bidders will be supported through financing and site selection.

Professor Tom Scott, Co-Director of the South West Nuclear Hub, supports the news:

“We really welcome this announcement on Great British Nuclear. It is well established that nuclear must be a major pillar of our energy grid to achieve Net Zero carbon emissions, but previously we’ve not had a coherent strategy or delivery body to ensure that this nuclear electricity can be provided. Great British Nuclear will support this vision, and its timing is critical.”

The report includes ambitions for fully decarbonising power generation in the UK by 2035, providing the funding needed to deliver nuclear projects beyond the existing commitments to Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C. Additional financial commitments include a “Future Nuclear Enabling Fund” of up to £120 million which aims to provide targeted support for new nuclear to address barriers to entry.

Tom Robinson, Research and Strategy Manager at the South West nuclear Hub has commented on the report:

“It is good to see the UK recognise the leading research sector in the UK and its vital role in delivering the UK’s energy security and net zero priorities. To achieve the necessary growth in nuclear power and low carbon technologies, and in the timescales required, more research and innovation is needed.

The South West Nuclear Hub supports the world-leading research capabilities in the South West and we will continue to work with partners, develop the underpinning knowledge base and deliver application-led innovation to help realise the next generation of nuclear power.”

Previously, the government had outlined its vision for GBN with emphasis on Net Zero ambitions and energy security. This included the SMR competition, but also classified nuclear power as environmentally sustainable (thus incentivising private investment in this sector, as well as in renewable energy production).

The report includes ambitions for fully decarbonising power generation in the UK by 2035, highlighting other crucial areas such as renewable energy production, carbon capture investment and hydrogen production. GBN will be based around the Greater Manchester area.

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