Britain’s nuclear industry has welcomed a Government pledge to build new power stations but urged ministers to outline a more detailed strategy.
As part of a green revolution, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is committed to building large and small nuclear reactors.
The strategy promises to plough £525million into projects, which could support 10,000 jobs. And it would also provide ‘development funding’ for big power plants.
The Government’s power strategy promises to plough £525m into projects, which could support 10,000 jobs. And it would also provide ‘development funding’ for big power plants
The move could cut the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. But industry insiders and unions have criticised the lack of detail provided by the ‘half-painted’ blueprint, which has left question marks over whether major projects such as the new Sizewell C nuclear plant will be given a green light.
The support for the sector comes after a series of crippling setbacks that could leave a gaping hole in the country’s electricity supply.
More than a decade ago six sites were identified for nuclear plants to replace the UK’s ageing nuclear fleet. Only one – Hinkley Point C – is under construction.
In the last couple of years Japanese groups Toshiba and Hitachi have withdrawn from plans to build sites in north Wales and Cumbria respectively, citing finances as a major problem.
SSE set to secure funds for biggest wind farm
SSE is days away from giving the green light to the world’s biggest offshore wind farm.
The energy giant is close to sorting the financial arrangements for the 200-turbine Dogger Bank project, 80 miles off Yorkshire.
It owns 50 per cent of the £2.6billion wind farm, while Norway’s Equinor owns the other 50 per cent.
SSE is days away from giving the green light to the 200-turbine Dogger Bank project, 80 miles off Yorkshire
SSE chief executive Alistair Phillips-Davies said closing the financing would allow it to sell a 10 per cent stake in Dogger Bank in ‘weeks’.
When completed in 2026 it will be able to generate 3.6 gigawatts of electricity, enough to power 4.5m homes.
The company has been reshaping itself to focus on renewables – and at the start of this year sold off its household energy arm to Ovo Energy for £500million.
It wants to raise up £2billion from selling various assets.
SSE reported it took a £115million hit from coronavirus in the first half, when restrictions sharply cut the amount of electricity Britons needed.
Profit slumped from £263million to £194million. SSE shares rose 4.4 per cent, or 59p, to 1407p.
Plans have been progressing for a plant in Suffolk, called Sizewell C, which is being developed by France’s EDF and Chinese state-backed group CGN.
Rumours have circulated that the Government will throw its weight behind the project – and could fund some of it. And there is said to be US interest in a scrapped Hitachi power plant in Anglesey.
But the green revolution documents gave no detail on specific projects or how much it would provide in ‘development funding’.
An industry source said: ‘We are not celebrating just yet. We need to see some names and time scales. The whole energy sector has had some shocking promises and reneging over the last 15 years.’
Union Unite described the plan as a ‘canvas half-painted’ and said it was ‘very disappointing’ that there was no go-ahead for Sizewell C.
The industry is waiting to see if there are more commitments in next week’s spending statement and the crucial energy white paper, which has been delayed for months. The Government has now said it will aim to publish it by Christmas.
The most concrete progress was to support a Rolls-Royce-led consortium that is designing small modular nuclear reactors.
The group, which includes Laing O’Rourke and the National Nuclear Laboratory, wants to build 16 of them across the UK.
It has spent four years working on early plans for ‘rapid assembly’ power stations which would be made in sections in UK factories and then put together at existing nuclear sites.
The ‘baby’ reactors could create up to 40,000 jobs by 2050 and boost the economy by £52billion.Last month it was rumoured ministers were considering ploughing £2billion into the consortium’s work.
But in the green revolution plans, the Government has only pledged to spend £215million on baby reactors, to be matched by £300million in funding.
And it will also stump up £170million for research into next-generation reactors and £40million to support UK supply chains.
Ministers have been mulling over plans to allow a type of funding called a ‘regulated asset base’ model, with private investors receiving returns on their money while projects are built, to attract foreign investors.
The green revolution documents do not say what type of funding model would be used.
Another industry insider said: ‘The real crunch will be what the funding model is for Sizewell C. without that we’re no further forward and new nuclear is nothing more than warm words.’