UK industry presents nuclear roadmap to net-zero

24 June 2020

Plans for a clean economic recovery and the goal of 'Net Zero by 2050' need commitment to new nuclear power plants, the UK’'s Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) said today. Ahead of the Climate Change Committee's annual progress update due this week, the NIA has released Forty by ’50: A Nuclear Roadmap, an assessment produced for the government and industry body, the Nuclear Industry Council (NIC).

The NIA says nuclear energy could provide up to 40% of clean power by 2050 (Image: NIA)

The NIC-endorsed report says that, in addition to helping meet long term goals, prompt decisions on a new nuclear power programme could "unlock mega-projects" delivering immediate benefits to help tackle the impact of COVID-19, the NIA said.  An "ambitious programme" could provide up to 40% of clean power by 2050 and "drive deeper decarbonisation" through the creation of hydrogen and other clean fuels, along with district heating, and eventually bring as many as 300,000 jobs and GBP33 billion of "added annual economic value", it said. Nuclear energy provides 40% of the UK's clean electricity, but demand is expected to quadruple from the replacement of fossil fuels and a boom in the electric vehicles and heating sectors, according to the NIA.

NIA Chief Executive Tom Greatrex, said: "Net Zero needs nuclear, and the sector is developing fast. The next large-scale projects are now deliverable much more cheaply by building on repeat and tried and tested designs, capturing learnings from our new build programme, and making important changes to the way projects are financed. We’re confident the price of nuclear power will fall from the GBP92.50 per megawatt hour for the first plant, closer to GBP60/MWh for the next wave of power stations reducing to around GBP40/MWh for further reactors." The country has the potential to treble its nuclear power capacity and add heat and hydrogen specific plants "over and above that", he said.

The Forty by ’50 Nuclear Roadmap report sets out six steps to be taken in 2020 "to turn aspiration into reality":

  • The nuclear industry must continue to drive down costs of new build projects (30% by 2030) and "establish delivery excellence";
  • The government should "articulate a clear, long-term commitment to new nuclear power";
  • Progress must also be made on an "appropriate funding model" for nuclear new build to stimulate investment in new capacity and reduce the cost of capital;
  • A National Policy Statement and 'facilitative' programme including siting and licensing proposals should be developed for small reactors;
  • The 2030 targets of the Nuclear Sector Deal (part of the government's industrial strategy) should be maintained, including cost reduction targets for new build and decommissioning, a 40% female workforce, and GBP2 billion of domestic and international contracts for the UK supply chain;
  • Industry and government should agree a framework and commitments, focused on cross-sector collaboration outside traditional electricity production including: the production of medical isotopes, hydrogen, and synthetic fuels for transport, along with heat applications including district heating and agriculture and storage technologies.

The NIA represents more than 250 companies across the UK’s nuclear supply chain.

EDF Energy and China General Nuclear said their project to build Hinkley Point C in Somerset has spent GBP1.7 billion with more than 1100 companies across the south-west, more than 10,000 jobs have been created, with around 25,000 roles by the end of construction. Spending on contracts in the Midlands and the North of England has reached almost GBP1.1 billion and the project has engaged around 2500 companies across its whole supply chain. Their planned Sizewell C project in Suffolk could create up to 3000 new roles over the next few years, the NIA said. Their Bradwell B twin HPR1000 reactor project would create "tens of thousands of jobs and deliver billions of pounds of investment in the local and regional economies", it added.

Construction of the concrete basemat for the nuclear island of the second unit at Hinkley Point C was completed earlier this month. Publication of the NIA report comes on the same day that the Planning Inspectorate has had the required 28 days to consider the development consent order from EDF for Sizewell C. EDF had been intending to submit the application to the Planning Inspectorate by the end of March but this was pushed back by the coronavirus. The application was eventually entered at the end of May.

Today, the Planning Inspectorate announced the application had been accepted for examination, adding it will publish the date by which interested parties can register on this application shortly. Once the applicant has published and notified people of an accepted application, the Planning Inspectorate has about three months to prepare for the examination.

Company support

In response to NIA's report, EDF Energy CEO Simone Rossi,said that, with 64% of contract values spent with UK firms, the Hinkley Point C project had established a "thriving nuclear supply chain across the country with the ability to export its world-leading expertise internationally". He added: "Approving a nuclear pipeline, including Hinkley Point C’s follow-on project, Sizewell C, would unlock thousands more high-quality jobs and investment in towns and regions that have been badly affected by the crisis.”

Zheng Dongshan, chief executive of CGN UK, said: “CGN strongly supports the role that new nuclear is already playing in the UK, and in particular the Hinkley Point C, Sizewell C and Bradwell B projects, a programme of new nuclear power stations that was agreed between the UK and China in 2016. Through these three projects we have already invested more than GBP3.6 billion in the UK economy, helping to create many thousands of jobs, and we also have more than 100 engineers and technical experts working on Hinkley Point C, bringing their experience of building the first two operational EPR reactors in the world. We are proud that our involvement in new nuclear supports the UK economy and the government's goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050.”

Horizon Nuclear Power, the UK subsidiary of Japan’s Hitachi, suspended its new-build projects early last year even though it had made progress with its plans to provide at least 5.4 GWe of new capacity across two sites - Wylfa Newydd, in north Wales, and Oldbury-on-Severn, in southwest England - by deploying Hitachi-GE UK advanced boiling reactors.

Horizon  CEO Duncan Hawthorne said: "A sustainable recovery needs nuclear at its heart to help us hit our Net Zero challenge in a way that spreads the benefits across the whole of the UK. Wylfa Newydd has a great site, a tried and tested technology, strong local and national support, and huge progress already made. We continue to work hard to ensure it is a part of the exciting vision set out in the Roadmap."

The Wylfa Newydd project is expecting a decision on its main planning consent in September. Starting the build will trigger a programme of civil, mechanical and electrical supply chain opportunities for UK companies worth GBP5bn, the NIA said. The first two years of construction will deliver supply chain opportunities worth around GBP875million and construction will require over 20,000 roles and operations around 900 permanent jobs for 60+ years, it added.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News