British nuclear task force proposed speeding up construction of power plants

British ministers want to repeat the country’s success Covid-19 Vaccine Task Force Deliver new nuclear power stations at “warp speed” after Boris Johnson said he wanted nuclear power to supply at least a quarter of Britain’s electricity generation by 2050.

Britain’s Prime Minister told industry leaders on Monday he was “madly frustrated” by the slow pace at which Britain’s nuclear sector is developing, according to those attending the Downing Street meeting.

As part of the plan, Kwasi Kwarteng, business secretary, is pushing for the creation of a new supply organization to end more than a decade of deadlocked efforts to build a fleet of nuclear power plants. Downing Street and the Treasury have yet to formally approve the proposal, according to people familiar with the situation.

Johnson is expected to leave new targets for nuclear capacity in the forthcoming energy supply strategy aimed at eliminating the need for Russian oil and gas imports and reducing the country’s exposure to highly volatile commodity markets.

Johnson hopes to release the strategy next week, but Rishi Sunak held it up because the chancellor wanted more time to deal with the cost implications. Government insiders said Johnson discussed his 2050 nuclear target in a private meeting with Sunak earlier Monday. “He didn’t disagree,” said a person briefed on the talks.

The prime minister told energy companies and investors on Monday he wants “warp speed” progress to speed up the construction program for new plants, another person said. The UK’s nuclear power generation capacity will more than halve to 4.45 gigawatts over the decade as most of the older generation reactors are phased out.

Nuclear power currently accounts for about 16 percent of the country’s electricity mix. Johnson’s target of at least 25 per cent by 2050 would imply a significant expansion in nuclear generation capacity, with electricity demand expected to double by mid-century, as part of the UK’s net-zero carbon target aimed at boosting the fossil-fuel economy to wean.

So far, a new nuclear power station – the 3.2 GW Hinkley Point C in Somerset – is under construction, although the Labor government voted in 2006 set Plans for a new generation of reactors. Successive governments have struggled since to persuade the private sector to defray the costs of building new facilities, which often involve delays and cost overruns.

Industry leaders have long attributed the slow progress on nuclear energy to a “stalemate” between the Treasury and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy over the costs involved – Hinkley Point C is expected to cost more than £20billion.

“There was recognition from government and from industry [in today’s meeting] that the way they’ve been doing it just won’t deliver enough [capacity]fast enough,” said one person who attended the meeting.

A new agency is needed to create “accountability for the process” of new facility development, said another person present at the meeting.

Industry leaders are hoping an organization similar to the Vaccines Task Force could speed up the construction of new reactors. The proposed delivery organization would also control all government interests in new nuclear power plants.

The government has already allocated financing for Britain’s next proposed nuclear power station – Sizewell C in Suffolk – after years of delays in trying to fund it.

Industry executives have told the government that about 16 GW of nuclear capacity would be needed by then 2035 to meet the UK’s phased target for reducing CO2 emissions, which requires a 78 per cent reduction in emissions compared to 1990 levels. As much as 45GW to 50GW would be needed to meet the UK’s “net-zero” emissions target for 2050, another executive said. British nuclear task force proposed speeding up construction of power plants

Adam Bradshaw

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