Planning overhaul needed for UK’s energy security, nuclear industry warns
The nuclear industry has urged the government to make the planning system less hostile to new nuclear projects, warning that further delays to building new reactors jeopardises investment and the country’s energy security.
Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, told City A.M. that he hoped the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt was serious about planning reforms, amid media reports he is looking to speed up the approval process for new nuclear power plants.
He said: “If we want to deliver on energy security, net zero, and lower bills then a more streamlined planning system is vital so we can get on with building new nuclear stations alongside renewables. Stalling further means running the risk of losing out on potential investors who want to develop in Britain, and all the benefits that brings to communities.
“We cannot afford to have unnecessary stumbling blocks. We hope the Chancellor delivers.”
This follows Hunt ordering a review of planning legislation last week, potentially paving the way for easier approval process for big infrastructure projects including nuclear reactors.
He has asked National Infrastructure Commission to review the current approach to national policy statements and identify how the planning system could be accelerated.
Ministers are still aiming to green-light eight new nuclear reactors over the next decade and want to ensure that they are approved quicker than the Sizewell C project, which was confirmed last year after a seven-year planning process.
In the nuclear industry, the approval of further funding for Rolls-Royce’s small modular reactors has been delayed amid funding concerns in Whitehall, while there has been little progress on a potential third nuclear project at Wylfa, in North Wales.
Connor Axiotes, director of communications at the free market think tank, the Adam Smith Institute, argued that the government’s target of eight reactors would remain out of reach unless “cumbersome planning laws are overhauled.”
He said: “Nuclear power is a safe, cost-effective, efficient, and emission-free source of energy production, so the Chancellor’s first steps towards the planning liberalisation of green energy production is essential if we want to secure the UK’s long-term energy supply.”
“This positive reformist mindset needs to be applied to other parts of the UK, too. To solar farms and onshore wind; to our broken housing sector and railway lines. Infrastructure investment needn’t be slow and painful – it is only our government who makes it so.”