Sunday 12 July 2020 11:59 pm

An open letter to the PM: Britain must build Sizewell C — nuclear sits at the heart of a green recovery

Zion Lights is director of Environmental Progress UK. She was formerly the editor of The Hourglass newspaper

An open letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, business secretary Alok Sharma, and chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak

We are writing as engineers, nuclear experts, scientists and concerned citizens to applaud your commitment to fighting climate change through energy policy, in particular the commitment to proceed with new nuclear construction at the same time as focusing innovation on an exciting new advanced reactor programme. 

Boris Johnson has said that “it is time for a nuclear renaissance and I believe passionately that nuclear must be part of our energy mix”. We agree.

Read more: A message from a former Extinction Rebellion activist: Fellow environmentalists, join me in embracing nuclear power

Although renewable energy is expanding rapidly in the coastal and agricultural ecosystems of Britain, because of its seasonally variable energy output and heavy environmental burden, it is not clear at what point their low-carbon energy can be counted on for future decarbonization and green recovery.

Fortunately, nuclear energy is extremely compact and works year-round, and thus provides a superb way to eliminate carbon emissions while protecting the environment. Nuclear also provides abundant jobs both in construction and long-term operation, and thus has become an important part of the government’s green recovery proposals.

As an illustration, consider that the recently-proposed Cleve Hill solar farm project in Kent was opposed by both the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Greenpeace on environmental grounds. The UK is not a sunny country, and 75 Cleve Hills would be needed to replace just one plant like the one proposed for Sizewell C, covering 74,000 acres with solar panels. Doubtless Greenpeace will oppose that too.

Nuclear energy has a long history in the UK, as the first commercial electricity from nuclear energy was produced in this country.

The Sizewell nuclear site in Suffolk is already home to Sizewell B and two decommissioned reactors at Sizewell A. Hinkley Point C is proceeding well, on schedule after four years, and new-builds are also envisaged at Moorside and possibly Wylfa in Anglesey. 

We urge the government to ensure that financing and other support arrangements are in place for all these projects to proceed urgently.

In light of the decision by the EU to ban investment in nuclear as part of green recovery, and the decision by France to start closing its nuclear plants prematurely and without offering its reactors for sale on the continent, the UK has a chance to become the leader in Europe on nuclear — because of, rather than in spite of, Brexit. While Germany is quietly focusing Europe’s green recovery around Russian natural gas, the UK stands in a position of key leadership to the other nations of Europe such as Poland and the Netherlands, which have urged Germany to reconsider its obstructive stance on nuclear in the green recovery.

The approval of support for the Sizewell C project, an exact copy of Somerset’s Hinkley Point C, could with a single stroke provide Britain with just over half the energy each year as Germany’s approximately €100bn solar panel fleet. With Sizewell C lasting up to a century (solar farms last just a quarter of that) and operating day and night all year long, that’s a deal of exceptional value.

By building Hinkley Point C, Britain has restarted its dormant nuclear industry. By building Sizewell C, nuclear in Britain will be secured for a decade. By then building Moorside using the same model, nuclear will be secured for a generation. That is the foundation that will allow us to invent a first-of-kind small modular reactor (SMR) programme.

The UK version of the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) is ready to build today, and fortunately the builders are, as we speak, learning every step of the process at Hinkley Point C. But without a second plant for them to build at Sizewell C, those hard-won engineering skills and experience will evaporate. 

History shows that keeping the people who know how to build reactors employed makes nuclear cheaper. It also shows that nuclear ends up belonging to the nation that builds the most and the most recent — and the single delayed EPR project in France does not outweigh the two on-schedule EPRs at Hinkley Point C. 

We implore the government to learn the lessons of both successful and failed nuclear programmes of the past, and keep the growing skills and confidence from Hinkley alive at Sizewell. Only this way will there be a future for commercial SMRs in the country. Otherwise the SMR market will be dominated by the countries which confidently and rapidly build existing nuclear: Russia and China.

The energy company EDF does not have any EPR projects going ahead besides those in Britain. This means that if Britain keeps the UK’s EPR version alive, it will become the new global standard — with UK sales people, engineers, builders, technicians, and factories. That’s because Sizewell C is already more than three-quarters British, with increasingly complex and important components coming from newly established British suppliers. 

This all ends if Sizewell does not go ahead.

If Sizewell and Moorside are completed, Britain takes a front-running position around the world as the only effective alternative to Russian and Chinese large light-water reactors.

No country in the world is building more than two EPRs. If Britain builds Sizewell C and Moorside, we will have six. Britain will also be able to meet its emissions reduction goals, while becoming a world-leader in a new and essential technology.

The future of nuclear is British — if we want it.

Signatories:

Zion Lights MSc, Director of Environmental Progress UK
Dr Simon Albright, PhD Nuclear Physics
Professor Wade Allison, Department of Physics and Keble College, University of Oxford
Professor Anton van der Merwe, School of Pathology, University of Oxford
Paul Cosgrove, Nuclear Engineering PhD student, University of Cambridge
Mark Lynas, climate author and campaigner
Dr Simon Middleburgh, Sêr Cymru Reader in Nuclear Materials, Bangor University, Wales
Dr Eugene Shwageraus, Senior Lecturer, Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge
Dr Adam J. Plowman, Department of Materials, University of Manchester
Mark Norris MIET UK Nuclear Power Engineer [Retired]
Dr Giovanni Giustini, Imperial College London
Mark Yelland, GreensForNuclear.Energy
Dr Nicholas Owen, Microelectronic Engineer, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory
Nathaniel Read, Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge
Lindsay Broadwell, Councillor for Western Ward, Leicester City Council
Aniket Joshi, Department of Materials (E&I), The Open University
Richard Ollington, MEng University of Cambridge
Karen Whitfield, Clinical Scientist (Medical Physics), MSci, MSc, MIPEM
Dr Maria S. Yankova, Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering, University of Manchester
Dr Ben Britton, Imperial College London
Malcolm Grimston, Imperial College, London
Andrew Kay, mechanical engineer, founder Atomic Advocates UK
Dino Rosati, Electrical Eng, Founder of Fortress Technology Inc, Toronto CA, Banbury UK
Professor Michael Preuss, University of Manchester
Dr. Pratheek Shanthraj, University of Manchester
James Bird, PhD student, University of Manchester
Arun Khuttan, Magnox Ltd
Denis Duff, C Eng, Founder of Nuclear Ireland, Ireland
Kirsty Gogan, Cofounder, Director, Energy for Humanity
David Watson, CPhys, Generation Atomic
Sarah Sherry, Jacobs Engineering Group Inc.
Dr Benjamin Gray, University of Southampton.
Tomiwa Oyebadejo, CEng, Chemical Engineer
Callum Hodson, MEng, Magnox
Marie Zabell, MEng, Mums for Nuclear UK
Rehana Jalil, PhD, University of Manchester
Callum Hunt, University of Manchester
Bob Pearson, BSc CEng Retired
Will Roney, MEng MSc, WR Technical Limited / Nuclear Project Manager
Jeremy Gordon, Director, Fluent in Energy
Robert M Schneider, CEO RMSchneider Limited, Edinburgh
Oliver Buxton. PhD Student, University of Manchester
Dr Alex Leide, DPhil, University of Bristol
Thomas Paul Davis, Nuclear Engineering Consultant, University of Oxford DPhil
Dominic Carless, Founder of UKPNPG
John Stumbles, BSc, retired engineer
Colin Megson, retired engineer
Thomas Richter, PhD physics
Thomas Nicholas, PhD student, University of York & UK Atomic Energy Authority
Omkar Myatra, PhD student, University of York & UK Atomic Energy Authority
John Lindberg, Dept. of Geography at King’s College London and Dept. of Surgery and Cancer at Imperial College
Kathryn Yates, PhD Student in the Centre for Nuclear Engineering, Imperial College London
George Morrison C.Eng MIMechE MIMarEst, Engineer
Adam Danilowicz, Physics student at the University of Warwick
Benjamin Roland Reade, BEng (Hons) Mechanical Engineering, Tobermory
Martin Donohue MEng, Nuclear Engineer, Atkins SNC-Lavalin
Matthew Rogers, MSci, PhD student in Nuclear Materials, University of Manchester
Eoin O’Cionna, Mechanical Engineer, London
Samuel Ward, PhD student, University of York/ITER organization
Bence Kasza, MEng, University of Cambridge
Nicholas W Moore MIoD
Peter Havercan, MSc
Luke Everitt, Investor
Timothy Rickman
Steven Stringer
Colin Nicholls
Greg Lusted

Signatories outside of the UK
Dr James E. Hansen, Climate Scientist, former director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies
Francois-Marie Breon, Climate Scientist, Lead Author of 5th IPCC report
Kerry Emanuel, Professor of Atmospheric Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA USA
Steven Pinker, Harvard University, author of Better Angels of Our Nature
Richard Rhodes, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb
Danijel Levičar, Physicist, Vice President Chamber of Commerce and industry of Slovenia, Slovenia
Chris Keefer MD Emergency Medicine, Lecturer, University of Toronto, Canada
Tom Wigley, Climate and Energy Scientist, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado
Ned Blagojevic, Senior Research Scientist, ANSTO, Member of Australian Nuclear Association (ANA) and Women in Nuclear, Australia (WiN)
Sean Wagner, MSc. CEO of Alberta Nuclear Nucleus Ltd, Alberta, Canada
Janak Das, BS Mechanical Engineering, United States of America
Professor Leon Cizelj, Head, Reactor Engineering Division, Jožef Stefan Institute, Slovenia
André Wakker, PhD. Independent energy expert; ex-nuclear & renewables business developer
Lenny R. Coelembier, MSc Electrotechnical Engineering – Automation, Licensed Reactor Operator, Belgium
Joris van Dorp, MSc. Mechanical engineering, Stichting Ecomodernisme, the Netherlands
Michiel Hoogmoed, MSc. Applied Physics, Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands
Albert van der Wijk, PhD, Nuclear and Radiation Physicist, the Netherlands
Stefan Stenzel, Senior DSP Engineer, Germany
Simon Wakter, MSc. Eng. Nuclear Energy Engineering, Sweden
Nick Touran, PhD, PE, USA
Marcus Eriksson, PhD, President Swedish Nuclear Society, Sweden
Rahul Saxena, Director, CoBot Systems, India
Léonard Freyssinet, BSc. Physicist, EPFL, Switzerland
Amardeo Sarma, Electrical Engineer (IIT Delhi, TU Darmstadt), Board Member, German Ecomodernist Society, Germany
Josep Rey, Electric Engineer, member of the Youth Nuclear Generation, Spain
Leonardo Prasetyo, MSc, Financial Mathematics, University of Chicago, IL, USA
Vincent Paglioni, BS Nuclear Engineering; PhD student in Reliability Engineering; University of Maryland, USA
Dan Sideen, Professional Engineer, Ontario, Canada
Take Aanstoot, Chair Swedish Ecomodernists, Sweden
Ethan Bodnaruk, MS Nuclear Engineering, MS Ecological Engineering, USA
MM1 Thomas Hyder, US Navy (Nuclear Machinist Mate 1st class) Materials Specialist Nashville, TN USA
Mathijs Beckers, Author of Climate Zero Hour, the Netherlands
Joris Lippens, MSc Nuclear Science and Engineering, the Netherlands
Canon Bryan, Chief Financial Officer, Terrestrial Energy, Canada
Johannes Güntert, Entrepreneur/Business IT, Board Member of German Ecomodernist Society, Germany
Adam Błażowski, Cleantech Engineer, FOTA4Climate, Poland
Daniel See, PE, MSc Civil Engineering, Lecturer, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, USA
Kurt Celie, licensed reactor operator at Doel, Belgium
Kundan Srivastav, Power Electronics Engineer, Renesas Electronics, Milpitas, USA, Indian
Rod Adams, MS Systems Technology. Publisher, Atomic Insights. Managing Member, Nucleation Capital, LP
Eric Meyer, Executive Director, Generation Atomic
Valerie Gardner, Managing Partner, Nucleation Capital, LP
Ed Pheil, Elysium Industries USA, Chief Technology Officer & Founder, Elysium Industries USA, Poseidon Atomic, Chief Technology Officer & Founder, Fisonic Energy Systems Advisor
Andrew Jaremko, BSc Physics retired, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Dr Azrudi Mustapha, Imperial College London/Yayasan Khazanah Nasional Malaysia
Keith Schue, Electrical Engineer, New York Energy & Climate Advocates, Advisor, USA
Alan G. Smith, Bach. of Sciences (Forestry), Canada
Dietmar Detering, PhD, Nuclear New York, USA
Alexander Cannara PhD, NY, USA
Alan Medsker, EE, Nuclear Advocate, Chicago, IL, USA
Ray Sundby, Electrical Engineer, CA, USA
Dr Benjamin Heard, Founder, Bright New World, Australia
Jonathan Sutanto, BEng (electrical), BSc (physics) MBA, Australia
Chris R. Melville, PhD, Chemist, USA
Jean-Denis Lefeuvre, ISEP Engineer, France
Clayton Silva, BSc Chemical Engineering, USA
Rainer Klute, Computer Scientist, Chairman Nuklearia e. V., Germany
Herbert Rensch, Electrical Engineer, Germany
Thomas Rotthier, Co-Founder Ecomodernism, Belgium
Benji Leenders, MSc. Eng. Nuclear Energy Engineering, PhD student SCK CEN (Belgium), the Netherlands
Raul Valdes, MS Strategic Foresight, BS Civil Engineer, PMP, Senior Field Service, Gas Turbine District Manager CFE México
Myrto Tripathi, BSc Industrial Engineering, president and founder of the Voices of Nuclear, France
Bernard Lenail, ECP engineer, Former Vice President of French Nuclear Companies
Philippe Hansen, Editor of Energie-Crise, France
L. V. Giddings, Ph.D. (Maryland, USA)
John Carr, PhD, Research Physicist retired from CNRS France
Laurent Doré, MSc, Director of Engineering, France
Richard Phillips, retired AERE Harwell
Vincent Van der Heyden, MSc Electromechanical Engineering, Belgium
Kim Ahlberg, MSc.CSE, CTO Kärnfull Energi, Washington, USA
Thomas Andersen, PhD, physics. Ontario, Canada
Francisco José Ramírez Ferrer, Industrial Engineer, MSc Nuclear Engineering, Nuclear Operations Instructor, Spain.
John Ahlberg, MSc.BA, CMO & founder Kärnfull Energi, Sweden
Kors Bos, PhD Nuclear Physics, THMSR Foundation, the Netherlands
Christian Sjölander, MSc.Finance, CEO & founder Kärnfull Energi, Sweden
Matías Verdú, MSc Environmental Science, Freelance Consultant, Argentina
Logan Smith, MScEng Nuclear Engineering, Going Fission Podcast, Australia
Kathryn D. Huff, Assistant Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA
Sylvia Barlag, PhD physics, THMSR Foundation, the Netherlands
Todd Allen, Professor and Chair, Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences, University of Michigan, USA
Mike Pachan, Cannabis Industry, Denver, CO
Carsten Grötzinger, PhD, Biochemist, Germany
Rauli Partanen, CEO and Co-Founder of Think Atom
Jarret Adams, founder and CEO, Full On Communications, USA
Richard Ivens, former Head of BNFL Brussels Office and Institutional Affairs Director FORATOM
Stephen A. Boyd, PhD, NY, USA
Diogo Soares da Silva, PhD candidate, Wageningen University & Research, the Netherlands
Kristin Zaitz, Professional Civil Engineer and Co-founder, Mothers for Nuclear, USA
Heather Matteson, Materials Engineer and Co-founder, Mothers for Nuclear, USA
Troels Halken, engineer, former CCO of Seaborg Technologies, DK
Pierre Dumont, electrical engineer, France
Elias Chedid, Data Engineer, USA
Pratik Lokhande, PhD Researcher, Nuclear Chemistry and Materials, Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden
Gary Kahanak, BS Natural Resources, environmental and nuclear advocacy, USA
Paul Lindsey, MS Mechanical Engineering, retired US Navy Nuclear Propulsion Officer, USA
Stephen Williams, Senior Software Engineer, USA
Chase Roycroft, B.S. Physics and Mathematics, UNC Chapel Hill, USA
Nathan Dubois, Junior Software Engineer, France
David Dudgeon, Chair Professor of Ecology & Biodiversity, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Hong Kong
Joshua S. Goldstein, Professor Emeritus, International Relations, American University
Andrew Klein, Past President, American Nuclear Society
Steve Kirsch, CEO, Token
David Lea, Professor, Earth Science, University of California
Nick Maiorino, Former president of the West Hollywood Tree Preservation Society (WHTPS), studied Mathematics and Physics/Astrophysics at UC Berkeley
Michael Shellenberger, Founder and President of Environmental Progress USA

Main image credit: Getty

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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