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12 Jan, 2024 06:56

UK reveals massive nuclear power expansion plan

It is hoped the initiative will become an “antidote” to the country’s energy challenges
UK reveals massive nuclear power expansion plan

The UK government announced plans on Thursday for what it described as the country’s “biggest expansion of nuclear power for 70 years” to boost its energy security and meet carbon emission goals.

The ambitious Civil Nuclear Roadmap presented by British ministers includes a plan to build a £30 billion ($38.2 billion) nuclear plant and a multimillion-dollar investment program to produce an advanced uranium fuel and “smarter regulation.”

The measures should quadruple the country’s nuclear power by 2050 to 24 gigawatts, enough to provide a quarter of the UK’s electricity needs.

“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,” said British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

“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,” he added.

The UK intends to build a fleet of eight new reactors by 2050 to wean itself off the fossil fuel. The government is also committed to investing up to £300 million ($382 million) into making the HALEU fuel required for new high-tech reactors, which is currently only commercially produced in Russia.

According to Jess Ralston, an analyst at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, the government is pouring a multimillion-pound investment of public money into the nuclear industry to “unleash further private sector investment.”

“The challenge is the industry has a record of running overbudget and behind schedule, so this does little to increase the UK’s energy security any time soon,” Ralston told The Guardian.

Other experts are also skeptical about the initiative, arguing that the UK has been “exploring” a new private-led nuclear plant for years.

“Fourteen years and not one new site opened, despite inheriting ten approved sites from the last Labor government. Labor supports expanding the UK's nuclear power fleet, which must form a critical part of our future energy mix,” Jack Abbott, an expert in the clean energy sector, told the BBC.

The British government’s plan comes shortly after the French nuclear power major EDF said it would delay the shutdown of four of its nuclear reactors in the UK for at least two years to help plug the looming gap in Britain’s atomic supplies.

Nuclear power production in the UK slumped to its lowest level in more than 40 years last year after six reactors had been shut down since 2021.

The UK currently has nine operational atomic reactors on five sites, but many are approaching the end of their operating lives.

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