The species of Tory who fears the banishment of Dominic Cummings will mean the return of the hug-a-husky green conservatism of the early Cameron era will probably feel some of their most fevered nightmares have been made real this week. Boris Johnson is due to unveil his 10-point plan to reduce carbon emissions as he hopes to recover from his latest auto-catastrophe. The announcement will be no mere political rebrand or Cameronian photo opportunity, either. Some of the ideas on the Prime Minister’s agenda are heavy-duty industrial policy that will have significant effects on businesses and consumers in the decades to come as Britain seeks to deliver its legally binding net-zero commitment by 2050. For instance, Rolls-Royce, via a relentless lobbying campaign over the past few years, seems to have convinced the Government that its “mini-nukes” project is a runner. It claims billions are needed from taxpayers to underpin investment in a new production line that will reduce the costs and risks compared with bespoke new reactors such as the £22bn monster at Hinkley Point C. There are plenty of reasons to be sceptical that even with its nuclear submarine experience, Rolls and its partners can pull it off. The technology is unproven anywhere and – as anti-nuclear campaigners argue – more reactors inevitably mean more potential points of failure. Nuclear power has a poor record of delivering its budgets too. Yet the prize is worth pursuing, especially in the Covid economy. The mini-nuke consortium says it will create 6,000 valuable engineering jobs and seek to establish a significant export industry. Meanwhile, there can be little doubt a net-zero Britain will need more reactors to feed the grid when the wind does not blow. As Xi Jinping slides into despotism, it would be better if they were not dependent on Chinese money or nuclear expertise, as at Hinkley.
Telegraph 14th Nov 2020 read more »