HM Treasury of the United Kingdom has said in two new reports that it is important to consider large-scale nuclear projects in addition to Hinkley Point C if the country is to meet its net-zero by 2050 target. This assessment rejects the advice of the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) two years ago that the government should not agree support for more than one nuclear power station beyond Hinkley Point C, before 2025.
The Treasury outlined its position towards new nuclear in two documents – Response to the National Infrastructure Assessment and National Infrastructure Strategy: Fairer, faster, greener. These followed the Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution the government unveiled last week and which includes nuclear power.
Under the Ten Point Plan, the government will provide up to £525 million to bring forward large-scale nuclear and invest in the development of advanced nuclear research and development, including up to £385 million in an Advanced Nuclear Fund for small modular reactors and advanced modular reactors. This is alongside £220 million for nuclear fusion research.
The Treasury said the government agrees with the assessment of the importance of developing a flexible electricity system and the significant role of renewable generation in delivering a low cost, stable, reliable and low carbon electricity system. The government also recognises the NIC’s view that a large degree of uncertainty remains which affects what the optimal mix of electricity generation technologies might be in 2050. Since the NIC assessment was published, however, the government has legislated for a target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
In the National Infrastructure Strategy report, the Treasury says that, “Nuclear is a proven, value-for-money source of reliable low carbon power which can complement renewables. The government is pursuing large-scale nuclear projects, subject to clear value for money for both consumers and taxpayers and all relevant approvals, with further details to follow in the Energy White Paper.”
As the UK completes Hinkley Point C – it’s first new nuclear plant in a generation – the government is also committed to bolster new technologies as part of the Energy Innovation Portfolio in its Spring Budget. These include offshore renewables as well as advanced modular nuclear reactors. The builder of Hinkley Point C, Electricite de France (EDF) is also looking to build another new facility called Sizewell C that would be an exact replica of Hinkley Point.
Though the bulk of the net-zero power generation by 2050 will be provided by renewables, their intermittent nature there will also be a requirement for more reliable sources of power in the future energy provision of the UK. In particular, the government is looking at power generated from nuclear or power stations that burn hydrogen, or gas with carbon capture and storage.