Boris Johnson reportedly met with Chancellor Rishi Sunak and business secretary Alok Sharma this week to decide what role, if any, Britain’s nuclear energy industry will play in reaching the Government’s net-zero carbon emissions target by 2050. The meeting comes ahead of a much-delayed energy white paper due out before the end of the year. Many industry observers believe that without nuclear power, that 2050 target will not be reached. And if nuclear energy is needed to continue to power the country, some of Britain’s ageing fleet of nuclear reactors will have to be replaced. “If they are serious about net zero, then nuclear will have to play an important part because, as we have seen in the last week, we have had periods with not much wind,” says Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association. Admittedly, he is head of the body that represents the nuclear energy industry, but he does have a valid point. In its report last year, the Committee on Climate Change recommended that firm power make up 38pc of the country’s total. That effectively leaves Johnson, Sunak and Sharma with just two green options at present: nuclear and carbon capture and storage. “The growth in renewables will deliver masses of low-carbon generation in the UK, but will also create a supply and demand balancing challenge and a need for other low-carbon technologies to ensure supply and demand are met at all times,” says Dan Eager, principal analyst at Wood Mac. “The Government wants to do this in the lowest cost to consumers while maintaining security of supply and job creation. Ministers will be mindful that nuclear has been on the table before, but… with the delays and cost overruns [we have seen] it is not as sure a thing as it used to be,” he adds. Government is unlikely to make a decision on Sizewell C any time soon. As one industry insider puts it: “While there are these reports that nuclear will be given the green light, there are two important things to bear in mind: the funding arrangements have not been worked out and agreed yet and the planning process for Sizewell C is still going on and that is going to take some time to complete; the planning decision might not come until the beginning of 2022.” China is another thorny issue for the Government. In addition to its investments in Hinkley and Sizewell, CGN is looking to build its own reactor in Bradwell in Essex, a copy of a Chinese design. Unfortunately for the Government, CGN is the only company, apart from EDF, willing to take on a project like this.
Telegraph 13th Nov 2020 read more »
Britain’s nuclear industry faces a do-or-die moment. Boris Johnson weighs up whether to throw his support behind a new power station. Climate change has made the politics of nuclear power even more complex than it used to be. Public concerns about radiation and the disruption caused by construction must now be balanced against the capability of nuclear power to generate large amounts of electricity without the emission of carbon dioxide, which warms the atmosphere. Critics of large nuclear-power stations cite EDF’s overruns as reasons why Britain should pull back from its nuclear ambitions. Instead, some say, Britain should focus on offshore wind turbines, diverting the money it will take to build plants like Sizewell c. In just the past few years, the proportion of electricity generated by wind has jumped dramatically. Even if Boris Johnson announces his support for Sizewell c, additional barriers remain. edf won’t complete the government’s planning process until 2022 at the earliest. Its approval will also take time. A method of financing the plant’s construction must still be worked out and private investors found. The risk of overruns is considerable, but the risks of failing to decarbonise are much greater. If Sizewell c does not go ahead, Britain will lose any hope of reducing the cost of nuclear power, and thereby the realistic option of including it in the grid. Its existing nuclear fleet is scheduled for decommissioning within the decade. Wind power is cheap and getting cheaper; nuclear power is yet to start moving in the right direction. But it may; and given the danger of global warming, there is an argument for keeping the nuclear option open.
Economist 14th Nov 2020 read more »