The UK government has launched a new agency, Great British Nuclear (GBN), to support the development of nuclear projects across the country. Its first task is to run a competition to fund small modular reactors (SMRs) in a bid to boost national energy security and reduce dependence on fossil fuel imports.

According to Energy Security Secretary Grant Shapps, GBN will ‘drive the rapid expansion of new nuclear power plants in the UK at an unprecedented scale and pace’, creating ‘cleaner, cheaper, more secure energy’ and generating around £6bn for the UK economy.

Unlike conventional reactors that are built on site, SMRs are smaller, can be made in factories and could transform how power stations are built by making construction faster, and less expensive.

GBN is expected to play a key role in helping the government hit its ambition to provide up to a quarter of the UK’s electricity from homegrown nuclear energy by 2050 and achieve among the cheapest wholesale electricity prices in Europe, whilst supporting jobs across the country.

In addition to supporting this emerging, more agile technology, the government says it ‘remains committed to the mega projects of Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C’, and ‘will work with GBN to consider the potential role of further large gigawatt-scale nuclear power plants in the UK energy mix’.

On top of the GBN competition launch, the UK government has also announced a grant funding package totalling up to £157mn, which will include £58mn for the further development and design of a type of advanced modular reactor (AMR) and next generation fuel. AMRs operate at a higher temperature than SMRs and, as a result, they could provide high temperature heat for hydrogen and other industrial uses alongside nuclear power.

Environmental campaigners decried the announcements, with Dr Doug Parr, Chief Scientist for Greenpeace UK, saying: ‘By continually obsessing about nuclear the government is taking its eye off the net zero ball, which will have to be delivered through a predominantly renewable, modern electricity grid. No number of SMRs will fix the government’s lacklustre effort to address issues of delayed connections, smart local grids and home efficiency. The government may argue that renewables can compete in the market unaided, while nuclear still needs state support to survive, but atomic power has been showered with money and support for the best part of a century without ever working well enough to pay its way.’

UK government sets out climate adaptation programme
Meanwhile, the UK Committee on Climate Change (UKCCC) has warned that the UK’s newly published Third National Adaptation Programme, which outlines how the UK government will protect infrastructure, promote a greener economy and ensure resilient food production – includes no major new funding or legislation and will leave the country unprepared to tackle climate change.

Following the five-year plan’s publication, Baroness Brown, Chair of the Adaptation Committee of the UKCCC, commented: ‘This is progress on previous plans... but we are disappointed the government hasn’t used this opportunity to go further… In another summer of gruelling hot temperatures, water shortages and wildfires, it’s hard to make sense of that decision. We are at the stage where promising further action is not enough… The scale of the climate impacts we are seeing make clear that resilience to climate change should be a much greater national priority.’

Secretary of State for Environment Therese Coffey defended the plan, calling it a ‘step change’.

Extracted from Energy Institute website, read more here

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