The Times: Small nuclear power plants in UK to replace gas in quest for net zero

    WORLD  26 November 2022 - 19:00

    Ministers are finalising plans to support a generation of new small nuclear reactors as part of a strategy to phase out gas power stations and decarbonise the UK’s electricity supply.

    Grant Shapps, the business secretary, is due to announce proposals for a body called Great British Nuclear (GBN) that will drive the government ambitions to triple nuclear generation, The Times reports.

    GBN will be responsible for developing a network of between 20 and 30 small modular reactors (SMRs) that are being built by Rolls-Royce.
    The reactors, which will each provide enough electricity to power a million homes, are significantly cheaper to build than full-scale reactors, and will be on existing or decommissioned nuclear sites.

    GBN will be responsible for getting planning permission and doing the preparation work on the new sites. One Whitehall source said that GBN would act as a “champion” for the industry in government, and deliver the nuclear element of the government’s energy security strategy, which was announced by Boris Johnson this year.

    The plan is to increase Britain’s nuclear generating capacity to 24GW by 2050, tripling what is produced now and accounting for up to 25 per cent of the UK’s projected electricity demand.

    Shapps was due to make an announcement about the creation of GBN next Tuesday but government sources said this could “slip” thanks to a Whitehall row about funding.

    GBN is understood to need an initial budget of about £500 million so it can begin preparatory development work both on SMRs and on about four to six large-scale reactors, which experts believe will be necessary to meet the government’s net-zero targets.
     
    With budgets squeezed across Whitehall, however, there is a row over who will meet the start-up costs. Senior Treasury officials are understood to have tried to block the business department’s request for funding, arguing that there is no money to pay for it.
     
    Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, is said to have intervened and made it clear that he expects the money to be found. A Whitehall source said: “There are some in the Treasury who have always opposed nuclear strategy and are doing everything they can to block it.” But senior government figures said that both Rishi Sunak, the prime minister, and Hunt were supportive of the plans. “This is going to happen,” one said.
     
    GBN had been due to be established months ago but has been delayed by the political upheaval in Westminster. A strategy plan was delivered to ministers by Simon Bowen, a former chief executive for nuclear power at the engineering company Babcock, who was tasked by Johnson, then the prime minister, to create a framework for new nuclear investment. His plan arrived days before Johnson left office.

     

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