Tom Greatrex, CEO Nuclear Industry Association
The UK faces the triple challenge of ensuring our energy security, decarbonising our economy, and creating good jobs in all parts of the country. Gas is our leading source of home heating and electricity generation, and half of that is imported at spiralling prices. Fossil fuels still account for around 80% of our energy overall, and economic prosperity, is highly uneven across different regions of the UK.
Nuclear has answers to all of these, but it requires urgent investment, at speed and at scale.
On energy security, nuclear provides a base of reliable, sovereign power that the UK, and the UK alone, can control. Nuclear plants need very little fuel, and the UK also has key sovereign capabilities in fuel enrichment and manufacturing, that free it from the grip of global geopolitics.
On net zero, nuclear is indisputably a green energy source. According to the UN, it has the lowest carbon use, from mining through decommissioning, of any electricity source. It requires the least mining, and uses the least land, of any clean energy source. Nuclear remains our only source of low-carbon electricity that is available whatever the weather, the time of day, or time of year. It provides an essential complement to variable wind and solar output to keep our lights on.
On economic prosperity, nuclear creates skilled, well-paid long-term jobs for the communities that need them. The average pay for a nuclear worker is more than twice the national average, and 90% of nuclear jobs are outside London and the South East. Indeed, all our nuclear power stations are coastal, bringing much-needed work and investment to the poorest parts of Britain.
However, nuclear’s unique and historic contribution must be renewed urgently. Decades of underinvestment mean that we only have half as much nuclear capacity as we did in the 1990s. Five of our six remaining stations will retire by 2028, leaving a huge gap in our sovereign energy supply, our clean power output, and our industrial skills base.
The Government has taken very welcome steps recently – setting aside more than £2 billion in direct investment in large, small and advanced nuclear, including Sizewell C and the Rolls Royce Small Modular Reactor. A 20% Government stake in Sizewell C, as has been discussed, would be another welcome step to cutting the cost of financing. Still, the current target of approving one more large-scale station by March 2024 will only replace half of the capacity we will lose. We must go further as a country: that means two more large-scale stations underway by 2024, and ensuring that orders for 10 Rolls Royce SMRs are on the books. It means freeing up land on existing nuclear sites for developers who want to build and providing further funding for the critical early stages of new nuclear projects. It means setting a bold vision to deploy fleets of large and small scale reactors to 2050, as a concrete guarantee of energy security for our country, sustainability for our planet, and real opportunity for our children, and for generations to come.