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Nuclear power stations 'must be built on time to maintain UK climate targets'

Joseph Flaig

A computer-generated image of how Hinkley Point C could look (Credit: EDF)
A computer-generated image of how Hinkley Point C could look (Credit: EDF)

“Urgent action” is needed on new nuclear power stations to help the UK stay within climate change targets, an organisation has said.

A National Grid report shows new nuclear builds must be completed on time to cut 80% of carbon emissions by 2050, a key national target to help restrict a global temperature increase to only 2°C, said the New Nuclear Watch Europe (NNWE). The grid’s Future Energy Scenarios report said the “Two Degrees” scenario is only one of four possible ways forward for the UK energy sector.

The report says 14.5GW of new nuclear capacity is needed by 2035 to meet the target. Other options include “Slow Progression”, where low-carbon sources are gradually introduced as they compete with limited money, and “Steady State”, with business continuing as usual and little ambition for low-carbon power.

With the 14.5GW target rapidly approaching, “urgent action” is needed to keep the nuclear new build programme on track to deliver, said the NNWE. Potential delays and budget increases have recently hit large projects, such as the flagship Hinkley Point C station in Somerset.

The National Grid report said there are “many challenges” in building nuclear plants at the pace and scale needed for the 2035 target. “Financing for these large projects and political support can be assumed in a high prosperity, green world,” the authors said. “However, issues such as supply chain problems and legal challenges can all derail intended project progress. While this trajectory is plausible, a number of factors need to align for this amount of new nuclear build to progress.”

Despite some support for gas-fired power stations as a back-up for renewables, this approach would make the 2°C target unattainable, said NNWE chairman Tim Yeo. New nuclear power has strong public support but would need to come from foreign vendors, he added.

However, he said foreign investment projects in the UK nuclear sector should have less than 40% non-European Economic Area stakeholders and I.T control systems must be supplied by a trusted British company. French company EDF is developing Hinkley Point with Chinese backing, and companies from other countries such as South Korea are preparing their own investments.

“A debate about the terms on which the use of foreign technology is acceptable for new nuclear plant is urgently needed if the UK is to meet its decarbonisation target in the least costly way,” said Yeo.


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