Britain to return as ‘serious nuclear nation’

05 July 2011

The UK government remains absolutely committed to new nuclear power. Without it the nation would be "darker and less prosperous," said the energy minister today.


Charles Hendry was speaking at the New Nuclear Build 2011 conference in London, taking the stage after the heads of the three companies that want to build new power reactors.


Each of those firms, EDF Energy, Horizon Nuclear Power and NuGeneration (NuGen), thanked the government as well as the safety authority the Office for Nuclear Regulation for a strong and pragmatic national response to the Fukushima accident.


"We need to maintain public confidence," said Hendry, noting the basis to achieve this was a response "based on fact and scientific evidence - and the existence of a strong independent regulator."



  "My view is that nuclear

  is vital for the energy

  sector today and can be

  just as vital many years

  in the future. And that's

  why we don't want to

  see one nuclear power

  plant built, but we want

  to see a fleet. But for

  that to happen we need

  certainty and clarity for

  industry and investors." 
  Charles Hendry, energy minister

The centrepiece was the early dispatch of the most senior safety official, Mike Weightman, to summarise the implications of the accident for current and future use of nuclear power in the UK. Hendry emphasised that Weightman was not given a detailed remit, but encouraged to "look at any issues he felt important" adding that Weightman was capable of "speaking his mind."


For EDF Energy, Vincent de Rivaz said: "It is extremely important that the reaction of the British government was ... to look at the facts, not at emotion. This is an extremely pragmatic and rational approach that doesn't allow us to become deflected by fear."


Hendry mentioned the extreme shifts in attitude in Germany and Switzerland and said that abandoning nuclear power would cost UK power customers £65 billion ($105 billion) by 2050. "Be in no doubt that the government response wasn't dreamt up by some junior official," he quipped.


The recommendations of Weightman's interim report have already been incorporated into the recent National Planning Statement, which approved eight nuclear sites for potential development. Weightman's final recommendations are to be incorporated into the Generic Design Assessment process, resulting in a slowdown of about six months. Initial design acceptance certificates for the EPR and AP1000 are expected by the end of the year, with a clear timetable for the reactor companies, Areva and Westinghouse, to address any remaining issues.


UK ambition 


It is still the UK's goal to be the world's most attractive market for investment in nuclear and other low-carbon sources of power. Measures to achieve that include a floor price on carbon dioxide emissions and other electricity market reforms included in a white paper due before 19 July.


Olivier Carret, head of NuGen, said the reforms were "absolutely essential". The long-term investment required for a nuclear power plant requires long-term clarity and long-term stability. This includes government's upcoming definition of the costs that future nuclear operators must pay for waste disposal. Hendry noted that the government, and its predecessor, had been systematically identifying and addressing the issues that could block investment in nuclear power.


"We must go forward with new nuclear and we would be a darker and less prosperous nation without it. After more than a decade since we built the last plant, there should be no doubt that UK wants to be a serious nuclear nation once again," concluded Hendry.


Researched and written

by World Nuclear News