Nuclear power can play a key role in addressing the energy trilemma of energy security, affordability and environmental sustainability of energy systems. Enabling more people to have access to sustainable, affordable and reliable electricity is a key United Nations Sustainable Development Goal: it reduces poverty and hunger, promotes access to education and health care and lifts the quality of life for everyone.
As the UK’s energy crisis continues to cause hardship for many, it is crucial that we move forward quickly in implementing the UK government’s Energy Security Strategy, published in April this year and emphasising the benefits of nuclear power as a key source of low-carbon, reliable and domestic energy generation. It is imperative that we move forward with the key commitment under this strategy to deliver 24GWe of nuclear by 2050 which is around a threefold increase in current installed capacity and which would cover 25% of the UK’s expected electricity demand. Depending on the pipeline and size of projects, this could see eight more nuclear reactors come into fruition and the UK government plans to take one nuclear project to final investment decision (FID) in this Parliament and two projects to FID in the next Parliament. The setting up of the Great British Nuclear vehicle this year, tasked with helping projects through the development process and developing a resilient pipeline of new projects and launching the £120 million Future Nuclear Enabling Fund are encouraging enablers towards the overall strategy.
Nuclear power has traditionally been associated with large-scale, centralized plants delivering carbon-free, baseload electricity over the grid, typically with large distances separating electricity generators and consumers. Recent innovation in advanced nuclear is changing this paradigm, with small modular reactors (SMRs) opening opportunities to provide customers with safe, reliable carbon-free energy generation closer to where it is needed.
GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy is innovating to develop nuclear technology like the BWRX-300 SMR which we believe is ideal for the UK. Global interest in this technology is significant. Ontario Power Generation (OPG) has selected GE Hitachi as technology partner for the Darlington New Nuclear Project and we are working with OPG to deploy a BWRX-300 at the Darlington site that could be complete as early as 2028. We are in discussions with the Tennessee Valley Authority about the potential deployment of a BWRX-300 at TVA’s Clinch River site. In Poland, Synthos Green Energy, together with its partners, desires to deploy at least 10 BWRX-300 SMRs by the early 2030s. There’s interest in the BWRX-300 in several other nations including the UK, Sweden, Czech Republic and Estonia.
GE Hitachi’s President & CEO, Jay Wileman recently wrote on LinkedIn about solving the energy trilemma and highlighted that “GE recognizes the urgent global priority of climate change and is taking critical steps to power the energy transition and advanced nuclear technologies are a key pillar of GE’s energy transition leadership. The world needs us to lead and we’re ready to focus on the singular mission to solve the energy trilemma – showing how nuclear energy can mean more affordable and reliable energy for communities worldwide”.
This article is part of the NNWI Forum 2022 series.