UK's Clean Growth Strategy highlights nuclear

12 October 2017

Nuclear power plays a key role in the UK government's Clean Growth Strategy, published yesterday, which defines how it aims to reduce carbon emissions across the whole economy. As part of the Climate Change Act, the government needs to cut CO2 emissions by 57% from 1990 levels by 2050.

Issued by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the strategy states the UK played a central role in securing the 2015 Paris Agreement in which, for the first time, 195 countries (representing over 90% of global economic activity) agreed stretching national targets to keep the global temperature rise below two degrees.

"The actions and investments that will be needed to meet the Paris commitments will ensure the shift to clean growth will be at the forefront of policy and economic decisions made by governments and businesses in the coming decades. This creates enormous potential economic opportunity - an estimated $13.5 trillion of public and private investment in the global energy sector alone will be required between 2015 and 2030 if the signatories to the Paris Agreement are to meet their national target," the document says.

"The UK is well placed to take advantage of this economic opportunity. Our early action on clean growth means that we have nurtured a broad range of low-carbon industries, including some sectors in which we have world leading positions," it adds.


The government aims to invest GBP900 million ($1.2 billion) of public funds in innovation for the strategy. In partnership with the Research Councils and Innovate UK, this includes GBP460 million in nuclear to support work in areas including future nuclear fuels, new nuclear manufacturing techniques, recycling and reprocessing, and advanced reactor design. It also includes GBP265 million for smart systems to reduce the cost of electricity storage, advance innovative demand response technologies and develop new ways of balancing the grid.

For its clean growth and industrial strategy, BEIS said it has welcomed early work on sector deals in nuclear, auto manufacturing and industrial digitalisation, all of which are "central to productivity in the low-carbon economy". The government will "challenge businesses in all sectors to increase their competitiveness in relation to the shift to clean energy," it added.

On policies and proposals for growing low-carbon sources of electricity, the strategy highlights the delivery of new nuclear capacity through the final investment decision last year on Hinkley Point C - under construction in Somerset, England - and the government's intention to "progress discussions with developers to secure a competitive price for future projects in the pipeline".

Regarding government innovation investment, the strategy states the need to bring down the costs of nuclear power while maintaining safety by investing in innovation that will help plants to be built to time and budget.

The government has asked the Nuclear Innovation and Research Office to convene a new advisory board, building on the success of the Nuclear Innovation and Research Advisory Board. The board will provide independent expertise and advice to support and inform the government's Nuclear Innovation Programme.

The government is also announcing that it will invest GBP7 million to further develop the capability and capacity of the nuclear regulators to support the development of advanced technologies, the strategy says.

Industry is developing a potential nuclear sector deal as part of the government's Industrial Strategy, co-ordinated around the objective of achieving cost reductions, it adds.


Referring to the period beyond the Fifth Carbon Budget (which covers UK emissions reductions in the period 2028 to 2032), BEIS said there is "even greater uncertainty" about which technologies will help the country reduce emissions by at least 80% by 2050.

"It is even more challenging to predict what the UK economy will look like in 2050 than in 2032. However, exploring the plausible potential pathways to 2050 helps us to identify low-regrets steps we can take in the next few years common to many versions of the future, as well as key technologies and uncertainties," it said.

To demonstrate this, it has presented three illustrative long-term pathways in the strategy.

The electricity pathway sees electricity is the main source of energy in 2050. "There are many more electric vehicles, we replace our gas boilers with electric heating and industry moves to cleaner fuels. Altogether this means we use around 80% more electricity than today, and virtually all of it comes from clean sources (renewables and nuclear)," it said. In this pathway, carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS) is not used in the UK by 2050.

Under the hydrogen pathway, hydrogen is used to heat homes and buildings, as well as to fuel many of the vehicles used in 2050 and power the UK's industry. The emissions removal pathway sees sustainable biomass power stations used in tandem with CCUS technology.

Concerning actual and projected power sector emissions that takes into account the government's clean growth pathway, the strategy anticipates that emissions from the power sector could need to be close to, or even lower than, zero in 2050.

By 2032, power emissions could fall by 80% compared with today, to around 16 Mt, according to the strategy. This could be achieved in three ways, it says. Firstly, by growing low-carbon sources, such as renewables and nuclear, to over 80% of electricity generation, and phasing out unabated coal power. Secondly, by enabling a smarter, more flexible system, unlocking significant expansion of interconnection, electricity storage, and demand side response, the first steps of which are set out in the Smart Systems and Flexibility Plan. For consumers, this could mean smart appliances and smart tariffs which help balance the grid in return for lower bills, it says. Thirdly, keeping costs down for consumers by reducing any wasted energy, including more efficient electrical products.

"To achieve this, we need to continue bringing down the costs of low-carbon generation from renewables and nuclear power, and ensure that the UK can deploy CCUS at scale during the 2030s, subject to costs coming down sufficiently. We also need to remove barriers and improve price signals for smart energy innovations which improve the efficiency and flexibility of the system," it says.

Good for nuclear industry

The UK's Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) has welcomed government's Clean Growth Strategy.

Tom Greatrex, NIA chief executive, said: "This report shows a clear low-carbon growth strategy which, underpinned by the industrial strategy, will benefit both the UK's low-carbon economy and our ambitious decarbonisation targets. As we move to reducing UK emissions further through the phase out of fossil fuels, decarbonisation of heat and power and increasing the take up of electric vehicles, new nuclear, combined with renewables as part of a lower carbon mix, will be a vital component of the UK's reliable and secure electricity generation future."

The association - which represents more than 250 companies, including nuclear power station operators, new build developers and vendors, those engaged in decommissioning, waste management, all aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle, supply chain and consultancy companies - welcomed the government's recognition that to deliver its strategy, a mix of low-carbon electricity sources will be needed, and that one technology alone cannot deliver the ambitions set.

The Levy Control Framework - designed to control the costs of supporting low carbon electricity, paid for through consumers' energy bills - is however important for low-carbon energy investment confidence, Greatrex said. This framework sets an annual budget for projected costs of all BEIS' low-carbon electricity levy-funded schemes until 2020/21, rising to GBP7.6 billion in 2020/21. "Any successor mechanism needs to provide clarity as soon as possible on the period beyond 2020-21," Greatrex said.

Spending on R&D is another welcome move, he said, and is rightly a key focus for the government's industrial strategy. The nuclear sector "would like clarity", he added, on the small modular reactor competition, "to capitalise on the international interest and benefit from the supply chain and intellectual property opportunities".

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL), which is the UK's National Measurement Institute, welcomed the Clean Growth Strategy. Noting that the strategy pledges GBP460 million in the nuclear power sector, NPL said new technologies and processes will be needed to help industry reduce the cost of nuclear decommissioning.

NPL is developing image-based technology to enable robots to conduct hazardous activities to reduce risk to workers; assessing the use of graphene for water decontamination and radiation detectors; and providing the reference materials and support needed to ensure that measurements of the radioactivity content of waste materials are accurate, consistent and independent.

Peter Thompson, CEO of NPL, said: "With GBP2.5 billion in investment for innovation, the government recognises the importance of excellent science and engineering to deliver extraordinary impact for the UK. We are working across the energy and environment sector to support the growth of clean industry, promote the uptake of innovation in the UK economy and enable new technologies to reduce the cost of energy and its impact on the environment. After a century as the silent partner to industry, NPL is ready to be the underpinning force that will enable the targets outlined in the Clean Growth Strategy to be successfully achieved."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News