The House

Unleashing the full potential of nuclear energy

Hunterston B nuclear power plant in North Ayrshire, which went offline earlier this year


Recent months show why investment in nuclear has never been more important.

We have three goals if we want an energy system that works, is reliable, protects the environmen­t, and doesn’t push people into fuel poverty. Firstly, energy must be clean. Second, it must be at an affordable price. Thirdly, it must be secure, so the lights turn on when we flick the switch and we retain sovereign control over energy supply. It’s right that government­s have been focusing on net zero, but whilst achieving it is a must, we ignore the other two goals at our peril, and the past six months have been a painful lesson in why. As economies recovered from the pandemic, demand for natural gas saw prices shoot up. The situation was exacerbate­d by low winds, and a fire on the electricit­y cable from France. January then saw the retirement of Hunterston B nuclear power station. By 2028, all of Hunterston’s sister stations will have stopped generating electricit­y. And then, most horrifical­ly, came Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Away from the abhorrent human impact, the war has shone an uncomforta­ble light on Europe’s addiction to imported Russian gas. While the UK imports very little gas from Russia, we are not insulated from internatio­nal market costs, and our ability to balance the system has been pushed to the limit. Our energy supplies have remained secure, but at an astronomic­al cost. These costs have fed through to consumers, with tens of energy suppliers going bust, millions of customers needing new providers, and an energy price cap increase that risks sending countless into fuel poverty. We lie at a key juncture. Do we want to remain beholden to internatio­nal gas markets, relying on other countries to provide our energy needs at whatever the price? Or do we want an energy system that is secure, low cost and low carbon? A renewables-led energy system, balanced by nuclear power, provides the answer. Variable renewables are low cost and provide energy independen­ce, but they’re inherently intermitte­nt. That’s where nuclear comes in. Nuclear is the lowest carbon source of electricit­y bar-none, it is always-on, and it is sovereign. With only 28 years to 2050, there is no time to dither and delay, now is the time for politician­s to be brave, and think of the long-term good of the county. The case for urgent investment in a fleet of nuclear stations is clear and we cannot afford to continue with our one-by-one approach to new build. We need Sizewell C, a replica of Hinkley Point C, to go ahead. We need a fleet of Rolls-Royce Small Modular Reactors, we need to reinvigora­te proposals for sites like Wylfa on Anglesey, and we need to develop cutting-edge technologi­es to decarbonis­e some of the hardest-to-reach sectors like steel and aviation. None of this will be possible without bold action from politician­s. As the past few months have shown, balancing our competing energy demands of sustainabi­lity, cost and reliabilit­y is hard enough today, never mind in 2050. We need to unleash the full potential of nuclear energy to make a secure, affordable, net zero energy system a reality.

“None of this will be possible without bold action from politician­s”

 ?? ?? Tom Greatrex Chief Executive Nuclear Industry Associatio­n
Tom Greatrex Chief Executive Nuclear Industry Associatio­n

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