UK announces biggest nuclear power expansion in seven decades

    15 Jan 2024

    The British government has unveiled plans for what it describes as the country’s “biggest expansion of nuclear power for 70 years” to bolster energy security, bring down household bills and help the country meet carbon-emission targets.

    The Civil Nuclear Roadmap will explore the construction of a major new power station as big as Hinkley C and Sizewell C, which are each capable of powering 6 million homes.

    It will also invest £300 million ($382.8 million) to produce advanced uranium – currently made commercially only in Russia – to fuel new high-tech nuclear reactors, known as Haleu.

    It would make Britain the first country in Europe to launch a Haleu programme, with the initial plant aiming to be up and running early in the 2030s.

    Another £10 million will be invested in developing the skills and sites needed to produce other advanced nuclear fuels.

    “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,” said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

    “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.”

    “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 technology,” he said.

    “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 measures are expected to quadruple UK nuclear power by 2050 to 24 gigawatts, enough to provide a quarter of the country’s electricity needs, he added.

    The government says it is committed to the 2050 net-zero target but has come under fire for issuing hundreds of new oil and gas licences in the North Sea.

    It is also still grappling with a cost-of-living crisis partly caused by the surge in oil and gas prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

    Claire Coutinho, Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, said the plans mean the country will “never again be held to ransom over energy by tyrants like Vladimir Putin”.

    “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,” she said.

    “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.”

    Cop28’s climate deal included nuclear on a list of low-carbon options that ought to be “accelerated” to help cut emissions.

    The National reported last month that Britain wants to work more closely with the UAE, after both countries backed a pledge at Cop28 to treble the world’s nuclear power capacity by 2050.


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