Nuclear as a driver of Britain's strategy

Tim Yeo
Tim Yeo Chairman New Nuclear Watch Institute

Last week's news that EDF has finally submitted its planning application to build Sizewell C was very welcome. Even more so was the confirmation from managing director Humphrey Cadoux-Hudson that it will be an exact replica of Hinkley Point C.

This means it will be cheaper to build than Hinkley as the 25,000 workers across the HPC supply chain learn more about delivering nuclear infrastructure efficiently and as the other well known benefits of constructing nth of a kind plants are exploited.

Investment in new nuclear capacity is an essential part of Britain's strategy for achieving net zero emissions. Cutting the cost of new build will ensure that nuclear remains cost competitive with those low carbon energy technologies whose costs have fallen significantly in recent years.

EDF's announcement followed hard on the heels of a survey by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. This showed that only 4 in 10 people support using nuclear to generate electricity in Britain. Twice as many support using renewables.

Even more worrying is that among the 18-24 age group only 1 in 4 understand that nuclear power is a low carbon energy source. These findings should ring alarm bells in the nuclear industry.

They show that the message about how nuclear power helps directly to address the threat of climate change and why new nuclear is urgently needed is not getting across.

The survey identified old sores about waste disposal, accident risk and radiation as reasons why some people oppose nuclear energy. In its recommendations IMechE rightly call on Government to include nuclear in all its communications about low carbon power and energy sources.

In my view this survey is also a wake up call for our industry. There's plenty of evidence that at the heart of the opposition to nuclear is ignorance. The more people know about nuclear energy the more likely they are to support it. Neighbourhoods which host nuclear plants know they are clean environments which provide well paid secure jobs.

That's why renewing our nuclear infrastructure must be one of the drivers of Britain's recovery from the economic slump caused by Covid-19. It will create jobs in those regions where they are most needed.

Borrowing costs, a big element in the cost of nuclear energy, are now at an historic low. This is an ideal time to press for immediate expansion of nuclear capacity. It's up to us in the industry to spell this out. If we don't tell our story others are unlikely to do it for us.

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