Great British Nuclear lacks ‘overarching strategy’, warns leading advisor
Great British Nuclear (GBN) is in need of an overarching strategy and lacks a clear role in securing the UK’s energy independence, the state-backed initiative’s boss has warned.
Simon Bowen, the UK’s nuclear industry advisor, raised concerns over the lack of clear direction for GBN at a committee session with a body of MPs in Westminster.
He was concerned GBN lacks a clear plan that outlines it funding, scale and targets.
Speaking to the Science and Technology Committee, he said: “The piece that is missing for me at the moment is the overarching strategy. This is where [former] Prime Minister Johnson started, which is ‘We need energy security in the UK full stop.’
“If we accept we need energy security: what is the quantum of nuclear that you need to secure that? If I reflect on where we are now, that is the piece that needs to be re-injected into the conversation.”
He argued it was essential for the government to establish a plan with GBN for which technologies it invests in and over what timeframe.
“Once we’ve got that – we can build a programme around it,” he argued.
While he considered a body such as GBN as essential for future nuclear projects, Bowen believed that the government needed to ensure it was resourced with “world class capability” in programme management, financing regulation and planning consenting.
He said: “To be able to attract that kind of talent, you’ve got to be able to articulate what the scale of the organisation is. You need to be able to articulate the likely budget over the next two to five years.”
Nuclear slowdown frustrates sector
Bowen has previously overseen Babcock’s nuclear business and has an extensive career in nuclear submarines, fossil fuels, renewables and defence.
He was appointed into his leading advisory role last May by Johnson – and has been tasked with overseeing the UK’s nuclear ramp-up.
This would include working with the industry and government to shortlist sites and develop a pipeline of projects to boost generation capacity.
Downing Street is targeting a ramp up in generation from 7GW to 24GW over the next three decades as part of its energy security strategy.
It is looking to reduce the UK’s reliance on overseas vendors to meet its consumption needs following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year and boost domestic power supplies.
When approached for comment, the Government confirmed GBN’s primary target will be boosting nuclear power generation over the next three decades in line with the energy security strategy.
A spokesperson said: “GBN will be tasked with helping projects through every stage of the development process and developing a resilient pipeline of new build projects. It is being developed in close collaboration with industry, ensuring that GBN has the capability and capacity to deliver Government’s ambition.”
However, there are concerns over delays to the UK’s nuclear ambitions – which have been raised by industry chiefs – with proposed 3.2GW plant Sizewell C still awaiting a final investment decision while there are also reports the future roll-out of small modular reactors could be delayed by a ministerial dispute over funding.
This is alongside the delays in defining GBN’s role and operational scale in the UK’s energy ambitions.
Meanwhile, Hinkley Point C is running two years late and 45 per cent over budget, clocking in at £26bn without being set for completion until 2027.
Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, told City A.M. earlier this month that the UK needed to develop a pipeline of projects to ramp up nuclear power in line with the government’s energy security projects.
He said: “Proceeding with pace and urgency will not only make power more reliably and predictably priced, but it will also mean that UK technology will create long term, high quality jobs and export opportunities from which the country will benefit.”