UK must commit to at least 10 GW of new nuclear, says APPG

30 June 2021

The UK government must make urgent decisions in this Parliament to restore UK nuclear capacity to at least 10 GW based on deployable technologies by the early 2030s, according to a report produced by a cross-party group of Members of Parliament. Meanwhile, the government has announced an earlier target for the phaseout of coal and a bill to reflect the country's freedom from EU state aid rules.

The Nuclear Energy APPG (All-Party Parliamentary Group) report - Net Zero Needs Nuclear: A Roadmap to 2024 - argues that decisions are needed to cut emissions and to preserve the UK’s nuclear skills base, since most of its nuclear fleet will retire by March 2024, and all but one plant by 2030.

In the report, Nuclear Energy APPG says the nuclear industry is ideally placed to support the government’s twin goals of levelling up the UK economy and cutting emissions, noting that the country's nuclear industry has helped avoid the equivalent of six years of national carbon emissions, more than any other source, while 90% of its jobs are outside London and the South East at a GVA (gross value added) per worker of GBP100,000 (USD138,000).

"The most critical step now is for government to begin legislating for a financing model for new nuclear in 2021. The government should also identify and support the specific projects that can deliver new capacity. Alongside this, the industry must continue its work to reduce costs on new projects at least 30% by 2030, in line with existing commitments," the report says.

The first of the UK's seven advanced gas-cooled reactor (AGR) units - Dungeness B - has already been retired. Five AGRs will have been retired by March 2024 and all seven by 2030. The pressurised water reactor at Sizewell B will be the only plant of the UK's existing nuclear fleet still operating in the next decade.

"Even before these retirements, UK progress on the decarbonisation of power has stalled," the report says. "Emissions from electricity generation to date in 2021 are higher than in 2020, the first year-on-year increase since 2012. Nuclear is the only clean power source the UK can rely on to stabilise our grid and to bolster our energy security. No other technology can substitute for nuclear. If the nuclear fleet is allowed to retire without replacement, we will fall further from our climate goals. We will lose critical skills and unique capabilities that the UK will struggle to recover, while investors and developers will lose confidence in the UK as our expertise fades."

The report outlines a 10-point roadmap.

  • Completed: Issue guidance on entering Generic Design Assessment for small modular reactors and advanced modular;
  • End of 2021: Commence legislation for a financing model to cover all stages of large and small new nuclear;
  • End of 2021: Confirm policy for new UK reactors to utilise fuel manufactured in the UK;
  • End of 2021: Agree a five-year funding settlement and approach for delivery of an AMR demonstrator;
  • Early 2022: Produce a National Policy Statement on the siting of new-build projects, including for SMR and AMR deployment;
  • Early 2022: Establish the policy and legislative framework to enable orders by end of 2022 for UK deployment of a fleet of SMRs by early 2030s;
  • Autumn 2022: Support Sizewell C to Final Investment Decision;
  • End of 2023: Commit to the next tranche of the STEP (Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production) Programme, including selection of a site;
  • March 2024: Enact regulatory changes to allow integration of modular reactors with urban and industrial systems, to allow the use of alternative fuels and coolants, and to support fusion energy;
  • Mid-2024: Government commitment to at least 1 additional gigawatt-scale nuclear power plant and to enable further gigawatt-scale development.‚Äč

Protect jobs

Welcoming the report, Trade Unionists for Safe Nuclear Energy (TUSNE) said: "Our members are facing the prospect of stations closing, a widening of the skills gap and the huge worry that only one station from the current fleet will still be operating in less than a decade. We want to see urgent action to enable station replacement that will provide firm, low carbon electricity for the nation."

TUSNE added: "We know the value of nuclear to our communities and to the environment. A good start would be to establish a financing model that encourages investors to begin construction before it’s too late and we miss our climate targets. For too long there has been delay which has resulted in real uncertainty, with plans for new stations at risk of becoming stagnated. The Prime Minister says he is committed to new nuclear, but we have yet to see any progress."

New commitment


The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy announced today that the deadline to phase out coal from Great Britain's energy system has been brought forward by a year, to 1 October 2024. The government will introduce new legislation to confirm this "at the earliest opportunity", BEIS said.

The move is part of ambitious government commitments to transition away from fossil fuels and decarbonise the power sector in order to eliminate contributions to climate change by 2050, it said.

BEIS has also announced that businesses across the UK will be able to benefit from financial support thanks to a new subsidy control system following its departure from the European Union.

"The Subsidy Control Bill introduced to Parliament today seizes the opportunities from having left the EU’s bureaucratic State Aid regime to create a new system for subsidies that can enable key domestic priorities, such as levelling up economic growth across the UK and driving our green industrial revolution," BEIS said.

"The new UK system will start from the basis that subsidies are permitted if they follow UK-wide principles - delivering good value for the British taxpayer while being awarded in a timely and effective way. These UK-wide principles will allow public authorities to deliver subsidies where they are needed without facing excessive red tape," it added.

EU state aid rules affected the UK government's plan to support the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant under construction in Somerset. The measures at issue were a contract-for-difference; an agreement between NNB Generation’s investors and the UK's Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, guaranteeing compensation in the event of an early shutdown of the nuclear power station on political grounds; and a credit guarantee by the UK on bonds to be issued by NNB Generation that is intended to ensure the timely payment of principal and interest of qualifying debt.

In 2014, the European Commission approved the plan, but Austria appealed against that decision. In September 2020, the European Court of Justice - the supreme court of the European Union in matters of European Union law - rejected Austria's appeal, agreeing with the Commission that the project was in line with EU state aid rules.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News