Government ambitions to boost nuclear’s flagging role in the country’s energy mix will be supported with the launch of a new industry vehicle today for approving new sites and projects.
Energy security secretary Grant Shapps will unveil Great British Nuclear (GBN) at the Science Museum in London, and announce how it will ramp up nuclear energy generation with an industry-wide competition for small modular reactors (SMRs)
GBN will initially be led by Simon Bowen and Gwen Parry-Jones, acting as interim chair and chief executive respectively.
From today, companies can register their interest with GBN to participate in a competition to secure funding support to develop their products.
This could potentially trigger billions of pounds of public and private sector investment in SMRs, scaled-down nuclear projects that can be built in factories at a fraction of the time and cost.
When the initial stage of selecting SMRs is complete, GBN will choose technologies which have met the criteria, and then enter into detailed discussions with those companies as part of an invitation to negotiate phase.
This will take place in the autumn of this year.
Nuclear generation is at the heart of the UK’s energy security strategy, with plans to raise its role in the energy mix from 15 per cent of generation to 25 per cent over the next three decades.
This includes replacing the country’s ageing fleet – as 85 per cent of the UK’s nuclear generation is set to go offline over the next decade.
It is hoped that a greater role for nuclear will strengthen supply security while also helping to ease energy bills by reducing the role of gas in power prices.
Shapps is hoping the launch will be the start of a “nuclear power renaissance” which could boost the economy, with nuclear power estimated to generate £6bn towards the country’s finances.
He said: “By rapidly boosting our homegrown supply of nuclear and other clean, reliable and abundant energy, we will drive down bills for British homes and make sure the UK is never held to energy ransom by tyrants like Putin.”
Bowen added: “Building on the work done at Hinkley Point and Sizewell, today’s announcement of the start of the SMR selection process signifies a real step forward in delivering the scale of nuclear power that Britain needs for secure, sustainable energy future.
“We look forward to working with all interested parties – technology vendors, the supply chain, the wider industry and local communities as we move this essential programme forward.”
Alongside supporting SMRs, Shapps is expected to confirm the government’s support for new gigawatt projects, with GBN expected to comb through potential sites for large-scale projects.
Downing Street is committed to completing Hinkley Point C and to beginning construction at Sizewell C – which are both overseen by EDF and are expected to power a combined 12m homes.
On top of the new competition launch, the government has also announced up to £157m in grant funding, including £135m towards advanced nuclear designs and projects.
Industry leaders have previously expressed frustration at the slow approval rate for new projects, with a reported funding impasse within government stalling Rolls-Royce’s ambitions last year.
Hinkley Point C is on course to be completed late and over-budget, while it is unclear how much private sector support Sizewell C will support despite the government’s push for domestic pension groups and investors to fund the project – despite the power plant being backed with £700m in taxpayer funds.