The Government has announced a new energy strategy that will see the use of nuclear power increase.
The Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged to take back control of energy prices by boosting nuclear, wind, solar and hydrogen as they announced the move.
But the biggest focus is on nuclear power. Here’s everything you need to know.
How will our use of nuclear increase?
After weeks of wrangling with the Treasury, Rishi Sunak has agreed to bring three nuclear projects to a final investment decision before 2030, on top of Hinkley Point C, which is due to be completed in 2026.
It also states that a new body, Great British Nuclear, will be launched to bolster the UK’s nuclear capacity with the hope of increasing it from 7 gigawatts to 24GW by 2050 – a quarter of the projected electricity demand.
The strategy also confirmed the intention to push ahead with a nuclear project at the Wylfa site on the island of Anglesey, off the north-west coast of Wales.
The ambitious plans is likely to require tens of billions of pounds of new investment from private companies, with the state providing guarantees under a new “regulated asset base” funding model.
A £120m “Future Nuclear Enabling Fund” will be launched this month in the hope of kickstarting projects.
Mr Johnson said “nuclear is coming home” as a result of the Government’s energy strategy.
In a social media video to promote the plan, he said: “In the country that was the first to split the atom, the first truly to harness its power to light our homes and drive our factories, we will once again lead the way.
“Nuclear is coming home. So instead of a new reactor every decade we will have a new reactor every year.
“For years, governments have dodged the big decisions on energy, but not this one.
“We’ve got the ambition, we’ve got the plan and we are going to bring clean, affordable secure power to the people for generations to come.”
How many nuclear power plants does the UK have?
There are five active nuclear power plant sites:
- Hartlepool, Durham
- Heysham, Lancashire
- Hinkley Point, Somerset
- Sizewell, Suffolk
- Torness, East Lothian
Why is the Government building more reactors?
The long-awaited energy strategy includes plans for eight reactors – the equivalent of one a year – to be delivered by the end of this decade.
The move is seen by the UK Government as part of a drive for “cleaner and more affordable energy”, with the aim of 95 per cent of electricity coming from low-carbon sources by 2030.
Mr Kwarteng said UK ministers believe “the only way you can get decarbonised baseloads – continuous power that is decarbonised – is nuclear”.
The Government has said “In light of high global gas prices, we need to ensure Britain’s future energy supply is bolstered by reliable, affordable, low carbon power that is generated in this country.
“New nuclear is not only an important part of our plans to ensure greater energy independence, but to create high-quality jobs and drive economic growth.
“Large-scale nuclear is a very low-carbon technology, which provides the reliable baseload power we need at scale from a very small land area; Hinkley Point C, for example, will power around 6 million homes from a just a quarter of a square mile.
Is it safe?
The Government, and the UN, says it is, and reactors are used in 33 countries.
However, there have been high profile accidents, most famously in Chernobyl and the tsunami flooding in Fukushima, and there are still issues about the long-term storage of nuclear waste.
The Government writes: “As confirmed by the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency, nuclear power plants ‘are among the safest and most secure facilities in the world,’ and nuclear power is one of the safest forms of energy generation.
“For context, the annual radiation dose to an adult living beside a new nuclear plant is much less than taking one trans-Atlantic flight or eating 100g of Brazil nuts – neither of which have heavy radiation.
“In the UK, we have a well-respected regulatory system which reflects international best practice, and an industry which places an extremely high value on safety, achieving world-leading health and safety standards every time it is examined.
“Nuclear power has operated in the UK for decades without incident, and all UK nuclear operators are answerable to robust and independent regulators – the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and the appropriate environmental regulator. If the ONR judged that any nuclear installation was not safe or secure it would not be allowed to operate.”
It added on nuclear waste: “The Government is committed to using Geological Disposal Facilities (GDF) to dispose of nuclear waste.
“GDF is internationally recognised as the best long-term solution for dealing with radioactive waste.
“We need a sustainable solution for the radioactive waste that has already accumulated over many decades. It’s currently stored safely in facilities around the UK, but this isn’t a long term solution and we will be moving towards geological disposal for new and existing waste.”
What about Scotland?
The UK Government has no plans to “impose” new nuclear power stations on Scotland as part of its energy strategy, the Business Secretary has said.
Speaking as the document was published, Kwasi Kwarteng acknowledged control over the issue lies with Holyrood – where Nicola Sturgeon’s Government is firmly opposed to nuclear developments.
Mr Kwarteng told BBC Radio Scotland Good’s Morning Scotland programme the UK Government is planning new nuclear reactors across England and Wales, saying there is “huge appetite” for this “particularly in Wales”.
But he added: “We have no plans to impose nuclear reactors in Scotland.
“It is a devolved affair, that is up to people in Edinburgh to decide what their nuclear policy is.”
His comments came as the Scottish Government’s Energy Secretary, Michael Matheson, insisted: “Our position is very clear on nuclear, we don’t believe nuclear needs to be part of future energy mix here in Scotland and we have got no intention of taking forward nuclear developments.”
Scotland currently has only one nuclear power station, the Torness plant in East Lothian, after the Hunterston B site in North Ayrshire closed in January.
Mr Matheson said the Scottish Government is opposed to new nuclear power stations on environmental grounds, due to safety concerns and because “it is probably the most expensive form of electricity you can choose to produce”.