The government will back a rapid expansion of the UK’s nuclear energy production after “years of dithering” as the energy crisis prompts it to strengthen the country’s electricity supply.
Ministers are understood to have zeroed in on nuclear energy as a means to helping the government achieve its net zero target by 2050, according to The Sunday Times.
Downing Street said: “It [nuclear] is very much on the agenda. We don’t really have any option. We need to get moving if we’re going to hit net zero and ensure energy security.”
Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng is poised to sign off funding for Rolls-Royce to build a fleet of mini-reactors, creating an estimated 40,000 jobs by 2050.
A group led by the aerospace engineer has reached the £210m threshold needed to unlock taxpayer backing.
Treasury officials are keen to back scaling nuclear energy capacity, back tracking on their reluctance towards the plans, according to The Sunday Times.
In an energy crisis meeting on Friday, chancellor Rishi Sunak reportedly said nuclear power needs to play a prominent role in Britain’s energy strategy.
Tim Stone, chairman of the Nuclear Industry Association, said: “If the government is serious, it needs to act, after years of dithering, to get the large power stations and fleet of small reactors needed under way now.”
Britain is currently experiencing an acute energy crisis, which has highlighted the energy supply’s exposure to volatile price movements.
A hike in natural gas prices has been partly driven by suppliers struggling to scale production in response to soaring demand for energy triggered by economies around the world pushing toward pre-pandemic levels of economic activity.
The UK has been hit hard by the natural gas price spike due to its greater reliance on the resource in its energy mix. Several energy providers have collapsed as a result of being unable to absorb higher wholesale energy costs, with an estimated 1.5m customers affected.
Research by the Centre for Economics and Business Research suggests Brits’ energy bills will rise more than £300 over the next year, with the poorest households being the worst hit.
Meanwhile, ministers have relaxed visa rules for HGV drivers and poultry workers in a bid to solve severe shortages plaguing the UK economy.