The government must ensure that future nuclear developments utilise British supply chains and commit to building the next large-scale nuclear plant at Wylfa, the Nuclear Energy All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) has urged.
These are two of several recommendations that the APPG group has made to the government and its new public body Great British Nuclear (GBN) via its new report Made In Britain: The Pathway to a Nuclear Renaissance. These steps will ensure that the UK achieves its goal of 24GW of nuclear power and “breathe new life into Britain’s industrial heartlands” according to the report.
The APPG’s five over-arching recommendations for GBN are in bold and further details are outlined below.
- Establish a net zero duty on the Planning Inspectorate and all relevant regulators and designate nuclear deployment as a Critical National Priority to ensure that planning decisions reflect the urgency of our clean energy needs
The APPG says that there need to be measures to ensure that the Planning Inspectorate’s regulation is “proportionate to the urgent need for more clean energy to fight climate change”.
It says that the Planning Inspectorate “must be instructed explicitly to make more sensible and proportionate decisions from the start”. The APPG cites the Planning Inspectorate’s recommendations against developing Wylfa Newydd and Sizewell C on “minor environmental grounds” while simultaneously acknowledging their value to the country’s clean power needs as evidence that it does not act sensibly.
It further recommends that regulatory bodies involved in the planning, permitting, licencing and consenting of new nuclear projects be properly resourced to enable timely and proportionate decisions.
National Policy Statements related to nuclear power developments must be updated and adopted rapidly, the APPG adds.
The APPG says that dozens of small modular reactors (SMRs) will be needed to support decarbonisation so these steps must be taken to ensure rapid deployment is possible.
- Publish a Nuclear Roadmap this year that outlines a full programme of projects to 2050 to enable national nuclear workforce planning and maximum UK content in future nuclear projects
The APPG says that this road map must be “detailed” as “we can only attract investment, attract new people and build new capabilities in nuclear if we have new projects”.
Commenting on current plans, the report says that the government’s pledge to reach final investment decision (FID) for Sizewell C in this Parliament and for two other as-yet-unknown projects to reach FID in the next Parliament (2024-2029) would, at best, “leave us 21 years, 12GW and billions of pounds short of our ambition”.
Therefore the road map must support lifetime extensions for the existing nuclear fleet; set out the sites on which new stations can be built and how much capacity they will each have; set targets for how many projects will reach FID in each Parliament to 2050; establish the preferred funding model for these projects; and publish a standard structure for funding large scale nuclear projects.
- Commit the funding to GBN necessary to build its developer capabilities and to invest directly in at least the first two small modular reactor (SMR) projects and next large-scale project
The APPG believes that there needs to be more clarity over GBN’s remit. It would like to know if GBN will own nuclear sites, whether it will be responsible for planning or other consents, whether it will hold nuclear site licences and if it will operate the reactors once complete.
It also asserts that the government should commit to GBN having resources to take equity shares in SMR and GW scale projects as required. Further, the regulated asset base (RAB) model combined with direct public sector equity investment should be established as the government’s preferred funding model for future projects.
- Select a partner for the next large-scale nuclear project beyond Sizewell C in this Parliament
The APPG points out that many Western large-scale reactor designs are now running and their supply chains active. It believes “the UK should seize this opportunity to start a negotiated process to determine which reactor technology is best placed to deliver a further large-scale project at Wylfa, while maximising British supply chain expertise”.
It says that Wylfa is the best site in Europe for a large-scale nuclear plant and “thus ideal for realising the fleet effect of multi-unit replication”.
It believes the government should therefore purchase the Wylfa land and IP of Horizontal Nuclear Power from Hitachi. It should then give the development access to the RAB funding model and put in a government “cornerstone” equity stake to increase investor confidence. It should also support GBN in securing planning consent and expedite site licencing.
It believes that a partner to bring the project to fruition must be chosen by the end of this Parliament.
- Award funding and assign sites to SMR Technology Partners by March 2024
The APPG believes that the UK can establish market leadership on SMRs and this should start with GBN selecting its preferred technologies and locations by March 2024. It believes there should be multiple locations for multiple technologies.
It adds that by ordering a fleet of SMRs, the UK will “justify investment in SMR factories from the selected vendor, increasing the efficiency of construction and building up UK industrial capabilities”.
The APPG says the government should offer the prospect of further SMR orders if the initial ones work out as successful. It adds that sites already established as suitable for SMRs should be made immediately available to vendors.
Overarching this, the government must invest in the capacity of the UK supply chain to serve domestic and foreign SMR orders, the APPG believes.
It adds: “The UK government should focus on reinstating the UK’s capability to manufacture components for SMRs such as reactor pressure vessels, steam generators and turbines. This will stimulate economic growth and bring high-value jobs to local communities.”
It believes that SMRs “present an enormous export opportunity” and that the Rolls-Royce SMR design is a “strong option for driving UK reactor exports”.
It urges the government to “develop UK manufacturing capabilities to build whatever designs are chosen, UK or foreign”.
It adds: “That way, the UK supply chain can not only provide UK content for UK projects, but also potentially win orders for SMR projects globally […] we are firmly convinced that this ‘high-value’ approach to SMR deployment should be our goal.”
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