Energy strategy: UK plans eight new nuclear reactors to boost production

Written on 4/7/22

Up to eight more nuclear reactors could be approved on existing sites as part of the UK's new energy strategy.

The strategy, which aims to boost UK energy independence and tackle rising prices, also includes plans to increase wind, hydrogen and solar production

But experts have called for a bigger focus on energy efficiency and improving home insulation.

Consumers are facing soaring energy bills after the Russian invasion of Ukraine pushed gas prices even higher.

Under the government's new plans, up to 95% of the UK's electricity could come from low-carbon sources by 2030.

It outlines, for example, the hope of producing up to 50 gigawatts (GW) of energy through offshore wind farms, which the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis) said would be more than enough to power every home in the UK.

The government's energy strategy has been much-delayed, with one of the big points of contention reported to have been the construction of onshore wind turbines.

Key points of the new energy strategy

  • Nuclear - The government plans to reduce the UK's reliance on oil and gas by building as many as eight new nuclear reactors, including two at Sizewell in Suffolk. A new body will oversee the delivery of the new plants.
  • Wind - The government aims to reform planning laws to speed up approvals for new offshore wind farms. For onshore wind farms it wants to develop partnerships with "supportive communities" who want to host turbines in exchange for guaranteed cheaper energy bills.
  • Hydrogen - Targets for hydrogen production are being doubled to help provide cleaner energy for industry as well as for power, transport and potentially heating.
  • Solar - The government will consider reforming rules for installing solar panels on homes and commercial buildings to help increase the current solar capacity by up to five times by 2035.
  • Oil and gas - A new licensing round for North Sea projects is being launched in the summer on the basis that producing gas in the UK has a lower carbon footprint than doing so abroad.
  • Heat pumps - There will be a £30m "heat pump investment accelerator competition" to make British heat pumps which reduce demand for gas.

The new strategy says the government wants to "lead the world once again" in nuclear power, reversing what it describes as "decades of underinvestment".

The government announced that a new body called Great British Nuclear will be launched to bolster the UK's nuclear capacity, with the hope that by 2050 up to 24 GW of electricity will come from that source - 25% of the projected electricity demand.

The focus on nuclear could deliver up to eight new reactors to be built on existing sites.

The government hopes to have a new reactor approved each year until 2030 with the aim to have them up and running by 2050.

It also confirmed advanced plans to approve two new reactors at Sizewell in Suffolk during this parliament.

Wylfa in Anglesey and Oldbury in Gloucestershire have also been named as candidates to host either large-scale plants, smaller modular nuclear reactors, or possibly both. The Great British Nuclear body will identify other appropriate sites.

"The ambition and determination to do much more and quicker is very welcome,"

Tom Greatrex, boss of the Nuclear Industry Association, said the plans marked a "vital step forward" for the UK to meet its climate goals, and could create thousands of jobs.

"The ambition and determination to do much more and quicker is very welcome," he said.

The government said it would reform planning rules to cut approval times for new offshore wind farms, with the ambition that by 2030 more than half of the UK's renewable capacity will be wind.

For onshore wind, the strategy commits to consulting on developing partnerships with "a limited number of supportive communities" who want to host wind turbines in exchange for guaranteed lower energy bills.

However, the strategy says there will be no "wholesale changes" to current planning regulations for onshore wind.

Although it is one of the cheapest forms of energy, new onshore wind projects have been declining since 2015 when the government ended subsidies and introduced stricter planning rules in response to some complaints that wind turbines were an eyesore and noisy.

This article first appeared on BBC