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MPs claim that the planned nuclear reactors in the UK are unlikely to contribute to meeting green targets.
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MPs claim that the planned nuclear reactors in the UK are unlikely to contribute to meeting green targets.

Members of Parliament have expressed concern that a proposed group of compact nuclear reactors may not help achieve the goal of reducing carbon emissions in Britain’s electricity production. This comes as the government begins negotiations to purchase a location in Wales for a new nuclear power plant.

The EAC stated that the government’s strategy for constructing nuclear power plants using factory-built methods lacks transparency. It is also unclear how they will contribute to the goal of transitioning the grid to clean energy by 2035.

In the previous year, Great British Nuclear was established in order to construct new power plants, specifically a group of small modular reactors (SMRs). The government has allocated £215m towards the development of SMR designs and is currently holding a competition for companies to compete for government contracts.

The government’s goal is for SMRs to simplify and reduce the cost of building nuclear power plants.

The EAC discovered that SMRs may not play a significant role until at least 2029, as the UK’s first station is not expected to make a final investment decision until then. This timeline indicates that it may not contribute to the 2035 target or Labour’s goal of powering the grid with clean energy by 2030.

Great Britain’s electricity is largely generated through gas-fired power stations, as well as windfarms. Nuclear offers a steady source of power, but most of the country’s plants are due to retire over the next decade.

The EAC reported that the government aims to produce up to 24 gigawatts of nuclear energy by 2050, although this number may be as low as 12GW. Opponents of nuclear energy claim that it is expensive and takes a long time to construct, and that the development of large battery storage systems for wind and solar energy could reduce the necessity for nuclear power as a dependable source of energy.

Philip Dunne, the chair of the EAC, said: “The UK has the opportunity to be a genuine world leader in the manufacture of SMR nuclear capability with great export potential.

Although the government has promised significant financial backing and committed to funding the development of the UK’s initial SMR, their overall plans for the sector are currently unclear.

It is improbable that the initial SMR will be functional by 2035, which is the timeframe set by ministers for achieving a carbon-free electricity supply. Therefore, what contribution will SMRs make in a renewable-focused energy combination, alongside current and developing large-scale nuclear power?

Recently, it was revealed that the government is currently in preliminary talks to purchase a nuclear facility located on Anglesey or Ynys Môn island.

Since 2020, there has been uncertainty surrounding the future of the site owned by Hitachi. The Japanese company had initially planned to build a reactor there, but formally withdrew its efforts after failing to come to an agreement with the government on financial support.

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The government officials are currently aiming to negotiate an agreement with Hitachi in order to obtain the property. Their goal is to then find a collaborator who will help develop a nuclear power plant on the Wylfa site. The Financial Times, the first source to report on the discussions between Hitachi and GB Nuclear, states that the site has been assessed at a value of £200m.

The Wylfa location is currently housing the final remaining Magnox nuclear reactors in the UK. These reactors were shut down in 2015, making the site a potential location for either a large reactor or a small modular reactor (SMR). The UK’s energy plans have recently come under scrutiny, particularly after the Labour party had to retract their proposal to invest £28 billion annually in environmentally friendly projects.

There are worries that the postponement of projects, like Hinkley Point C in Somerset, could have a negative impact on electricity production, especially as more households and businesses are transitioning to relying on electricity for tasks like heating and using electric cars.

The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero spokesperson stated that they have put an end to the inconsistent approach towards nuclear energy. They have also introduced a roadmap for the largest growth of the sector in 70 years, which includes streamlining regulations and making the process of constructing new power plants faster. This will result in cleaner, more affordable, and more reliable energy in the future.

Source: theguardian.com