The proposed new facility would be the same size as Hinkley Point C, which is under construction, and Sizewell C, which has been granted permission but is awaiting external investment in order for work to begin.
A Civil Nuclear Roadmap to 2050, announced by the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero today (11 January) recommits to increasing nuclear power generation to 24GW, four times the current capacity, by 2050.
This includes starting work to prepare for another large-scale plant as big as the Somerset and Suffolk facilities.
The roadmap states that “timelines and processes” for this will be set out “by the end of this parliament”, which occurs this year. However, this is subject to a final investment decision on Sizewell C having already appeared.
Last night, energy minister Andrew Bowie was reported as telling the Financial Times that the UK government and EDF were “very much on track” to raise the near-£20bn needed for the Suffolk build by the end of 2024.
There have previously been concerns about funding large nuclear power stations, with Hitachi walking away from its plans for Wyfla Newydd on Anglesey in 2020, citing the low amount of money it was set to receive for electricity generation.
The Regulated Asset Base, a new funding model for large-scale builds, was committed to in 2021, after being looked at since early 2018, but is yet to have secured the future of any new plants.
Today’s Civil Nuclear Roadmap also announces the government’s ambition to secure 3–7GW worth of investment decisions every five years from 2030 to 2044 on new nuclear projects and says developers will be allowed to identify new locations for power stations.
The government is also considering whether to allow regulators to assess projects before designs have been finalised to speed up the delivery of nuclear schemes.
The April 2022 British Energy Security Strategy also targeted 24GW of energy generation through nuclear means by 2050, around a quarter of expected demand. At the time, it linked this to delivery of a new reactor every year.
Prime minister Rishi Sunak said: “Nuclear is the perfect antidote to the energy challenges facing Britain – it’s green, cheaper in the long term, and will ensure the UK’s energy security for the long term.
“This is the right long-term decision and is the next step in our commitment to nuclear power, which puts us on course to achieve net zero by 2050 in a measured and sustainable way.”
Other elements of the new roadmap include encouraging the development of small modular reactor (SMR) technology, something that has been ongoing for several years.
Up to £300m will also be invested in UK production of the HALEU fuel that powers the latest generation of nuclear reactors, which is currently only commercially produced in Russia.
Nuclear Industry Association chief executive Tom Greatrex said: “We welcome the publication of the roadmap – the commitment to explore a further large-scale project beyond Sizewell C in parallel with the deployment of SMRs is very welcome.
“We will need both large and small nuclear at scale and at pace for our energy security and net-zero future. Allowing developers to engage with the government about Regulated Asset Base funding models should also make it cheaper to finance projects, cutting costs to the consumer.”
Great British Nuclear chief executive Gwen Parry-Jones added: “Together with industry, we will enthusiastically take up the role the government has set out for us in delivering and advising across the UK’s nuclear programme. We are actively building [our] capability to take on the challenge ahead.”
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