Boris Johnson will on Monday sketch out to business bosses what one minister known as his “gung ho” method to boosting Britain’s nuclear energy sector, as officers draw up plans that might goal a fivefold enhance in capability by 2050.
The prime minister vowed this month to make “a collection of huge new bets on nuclear energy” and authorities insiders say this might indicate the development of at the least half a dozen large new stations between 2030 and 2050.
Rishi Sunak, chancellor, final week utilized the brakes to Johnson’s plans to set out an vitality safety technique this week, amid Treasury fears about the price to the general public purse. New nuclear energy stations every require near £20bn to construct and the business is vulnerable to value overruns.
Sunak, who presents his Spring Assertion this week, is making an attempt to carry down spending to offer him area to chop taxes. “We have to do extra work on the nuclear technique earlier than we press forward,” mentioned one ally of the chancellor.
However one cupboard minister mentioned: “Boris has had one thing of an evangelical conversion, prior to now few months — he has been actually gung-ho for nuclear.” The vitality technique is due earlier than the top of the month.
The struggle in Ukraine and the spiralling value of pure fuel has heightened Johnson’s need to spice up Britain’s home vitality provides and his new technique will set out plans for a giant growth of wind and solar energy.
However the brand new nuclear technique, meant to breathe life right into a sector beset by planning and monetary difficulties, would be the most delicate and troublesome to ship as ministers push in direction of a “web zero” emissions goal in 2050.
Authorities insiders say they count on the brand new vitality technique will set out a goal for nuclear energy technology by 2050 that will characterize an enormous enhance on present plans.
All however one in all Britain’s present fleet of six nuclear energy stations are as a consequence of be retired by 2030, leaving just 4.45GW of nuclear capacity — half the output in comparison with the beginning of the last decade.
However one official engaged on the vitality technique mentioned a goal of 24GW by 2050 can be “cheap”; every large new nuclear station, such because the one underneath development at Hinkley Level C, can generate simply over 3GW.
A cross-party pro-nuclear group of MPs has known as on ministers to supply a street map calling for 15GW of latest nuclear technology by 2035 and 30GW by 2050. Nuclear put in capability peaked at 12.7GW in 1995.
Johnson will on Monday host a roundtable of leaders within the nuclear business to debate home vitality safety and nuclear tasks within the UK, together with large-scale energy stations and small modular reactors (SMRs).
Downing Avenue mentioned the prime minister would focus on “how authorities and business can work collectively to take away obstacles and progress future nuclear tasks within the UK extra rapidly and cheaply”.
However the issues of delivering the programme are appreciable. Treasury resistance is delaying the progress of plans to construct a brand new nuclear energy station at Wylfa in Anglesey, in response to senior authorities figures.
Wylfa has the potential to be the UK’s third large undertaking within the new nuclear programme — behind Hinkley Level C and Sizewell C — however is in a state of hiatus.
Hitachi, the Japanese conglomerate, inflicted a serious blow to the federal government when it deserted plans to construct a nuclear energy plant at Wylfa in 2019 — writing off $2.8bn on the undertaking.
Since then US nuclear firm Westinghouse has put collectively a consortium with development group Bechtel to revive the plans. The businesses wish to construct both one or two nuclear reactors on the positioning together with — doubtlessly — a few SMRs of the type being developed by Rolls-Royce.
Johnson is known to be smitten by Wylfa’s prospects as a part of an acceleration of the nuclear programme.
However Treasury figures together with Sunak are mentioned to be extra cautious on condition that getting the scheme off the bottom would require beneficiant help from the federal government and taxpayers.
“With Rishi it’s not as if he’s saying no to Wylfa, however there’s a sense of warning within the Treasury which does appear to be delaying progress,” mentioned one senior authorities official.