The British Energy Security Strategy and the future of nuclear

The Government recently published their British Energy Security Strategy, which documents their long-term initiatives to transition away from fossil fuels and generate more power within Britain in the race for net zero.

With over 90% of homes still heated by fossil fuels, and continued reliance on importing to meet demand, it’s latest strategy aims to set out the financial and central support needed to boost the production of low carbon electricity within Britain.

We take a deep dive into what this means for the future of the country’s nuclear power industry.

Driving nuclear new build forward

Whilst a large proportion of the Government’s plan understandably focuses on renewable energy generation options and new emerging initiatives such as carbon capture and storage, it’s promising to see that nuclear continues to be seen as an extremely valuable and proven low carbon energy production method.

Cited in the report is the ambition to increase nuclear new build projects, with promises to streamline the time it takes to get the necessary sign off to bring new build projects into construction.

Nuclear power currently supplies 15% of our electricity here in Britain, and has the major advantage of being the only reliable form of low carbon electricity generation – not reliant on good or bad weather to maintain consistent production volume. The report also identifies that nuclear can provide more than one hundred times more power than a similar sized solar power installation – making it a great option for production at a large scale.

With plans for the majority of the UK’s power stations to be switched off and moved into decommissioning over the next decade, the Government have identified that faster progress needs to be made to commission new stations and build on the expertise and knowledge being established at Hinkley Point C. With a focus on potential new projects such as Hinkley’s sister site Sizewell C.

Strategy snapshot:

“Increasing our plans for deployment of civil nuclear to up to 24GW by 2050 – three times more than now and representing up to 25% of our projected electricity demand.”

Page 25, British Energy Security Strategy, HM Government

Developing SMR and AMR technology

Small Modular Reactors (SMR) and Advanced Modular Reactors (AMR) also feature prominently in the long-term strategy to develop low carbon electricity production.

This includes ambitions to work with other countries to ensure the development of these advanced nuclear technologies can continue at pace. Last year the Government showed its support SMR technology by pledging £210 million in funding for Rolls-Royce SMR, who are leading the efforts to establish small reactor technology in the UK.

The modular nature of this smaller technology provides a great opportunity to provide a scalable option to quickly construct power generation sources locally – with all parts manufactured in a factory ready to be installed on-site. A vast change in pace from traditional large-scale power stations builds.

What does this mean for the nuclear industry?

  • Potential for up to 10,000 jobs at peak construction, for each large-scale new build project
  • Setting an ambition to bring one nuclear power project through to Final Investment Decision (FID) within this parliament, and two in the next parliament
  • Incorporating SMR and AMR opportunities to drive ambitions to progress up to 8 more reactors, with the potential deliver one reactor a year
  • Continued financial investment to support the development of nuclear new build, SMR and AMR opportunities – including a £120 million Future Nuclear Enabling Fund
  • Continued ambition for Sizewell C – for which is NRL proud to be a  supporting member of the Sizewell C Consortium 

What does this mean for Non-Destructive Testing?

  • Provides the potential to open up more NDT jobs to support new infrastructure
  • Opportunity to continue to develop industry leading radiography and ultrasonic qualification and testing techniques
  • Would require extensive NDT pipe testing throughout the lifecycle of the large-scale nuclear power stations
  • Requirement to define new NDT testing requirements for SMR and AMR projects

Interested in reading the Government’s strategy in full? You’ll find it here.