The South West Nuclear Hub welcomes the publication of the UK Government's Energy Security Strategy, with the clear emphasis on expanding new nuclear projects in the coming years.
The Energy Security Strategy, published on 7th April, outlines a new nuclear target of 24GW by 2050, aiming to serve 25% of predicted energy needs. This would more than treble the current generation of the UK's six nuclear power stations, which provide 6.9GW and around 16% of the electricity mix.
A new body called Great British Nuclear will be launched to bring forward new projects, backed by substantial funding, and we will launch the £120 million Future Nuclear Enabling Fund this month.
Encouragingly, the development of Sizewell C will continue, which will transfers knowledge and supply chain expertise directly from the Hinkley Point C project. This will ensure thousands of skilled, well-paying jobs are created and preserved, with Sizewell C expected to support 70,000 jobs across the UK over construction. Sizewell will also be a direct replica of Hinkley Point C, reducing costs and time of construction.
Future new build in the South West?
The Strategy also includes plans to deliver up to eight new nuclear reactors, with one being approved each year until 2030. Oldbury site in South Gloucestershire, which had been previously earmarked for development by Horizon Nuclear Power, could be a primary site for a new nuclear power station in the South West, whether fission or fusion. This ‘Severn Edge’ site is currently under consideration for the STEP fusion powerplant as one of five final candidate sites, making it an extremely exciting time for atomic energy in the region.
The world is facing the biggest energy crisis for 50 years. Gas prices have gone through the roof. Britain needs reliable #nuclear with wind and solar to become self-sufficient in energy and less reliant on imported gas. pic.twitter.com/8H79PLhV9p
— Hinkley Point C (@hinkleypointc) April 7, 2022
The South West has long been a powerhouse of nuclear industry, helping to cut millions of tonnes of emissions each year and supporting the aim of reaching Net Zero by 2050. The region is well placed to host new nuclear projects, with the Rolls-Royce Small Modular Reactor (SMR) programme another key part of the strategy.
Nuclear energy for hydrogen production
The government plans also aim to double the ambition for low carbon hydrogen production capacity, achieving up to 10GW by 2030. This substantial thirst for hydrogen provides yet another opportunity for the nuclear sector beyond just supplying electricity. Future Advanced Modular Reactors (AMRs) will be to act as generators of Hydrogen as well as electricity, thereby providing cleaner energy for industry as well as for transport and potentially domestic heating.
Commenting on the announcements, Hub co-Director Professor Tom Scott said:
"It is fantastic to see the government really taking the climate and decarbonisation agenda so seriously, and for recognising that nuclear energy has a key part to play in the country’s energy mix.
The current global situation, with exorbitant energy prices has been painful lesson in the value of having native energy security. Nuclear remains the only source of proven, reliable, non-weather dependent clean power generation which can help to ensure this energy security.
This announcement has excellent implications for research and innovation into nuclear and other sources of low-carbon energy. It is research, training and innovation that is needed across the entire energy sector, as it will ensure we can accelerate our move away from fossil fuels to a cleaner more sustainable economy.
What we need to see now from government is quick and positive actions to double down on these positive announcements; sites for new reactors need to be quickly identified, private investment needs to be incentivised and funding for research and training needs to be increased to ensure we have the numbers and skills to deliver this ambitious vision."
Main image credit: EDF