It looks like the United Kingdom is set to become the newest player in the push to use nuclear power as a viable alternative to fossil fuel-driven power generation.
Last March 15th, British Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt announced the reclassification of nuclear energy as a sustainable power source, giving the industry access to the same financial incentives as renewable power sources like wind and solar.
The Chancellor made the statement as he announced the British government’s budget for spring 2023. He added that an initiative called the Great British Nuclear Scheme was developed with two goals: reduce power costs and provide employment and investment opportunities in the supply chain.
It is also hoped that the scheme will lead to the nuclear sector providing around 25% of the country’s total electricity requirement by 2050.
Getting the Nation Involved
One key aspect of the Great British Nuclear Scheme is how citizens are being asked to participate in numerous ways. One such project is a competition for small nuclear reactor (SMR) designs and feasibility studies. Projects found viable will be given ample funding for development and eventual deployment.
Hunt also repeated his intention to make a £700 million investment in the Sizewell C nuclear power station that will be built in Suffolk, as well as a new investment of up to £20 billion for the development of carbon capture usage and storage (CCUS) technologies. However, this second initiative comes with a caveat: any money pledged for it is not likely to be given before the upcoming election – and, even then, Hunt may no longer hold the chancellorship.
In any case, Hunt expressed hope that the said investments would help generate around 50,000 employment opportunities.
The Critics Weigh In
Adrian Bull, a member of the Dalton Nuclear Institute faculty at the University of Manchester, remarked that the Chancellor’s announcement put a positive spin on the use of nuclear power but added that there was nothing new in anything that he said.
For her part, Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas (Green Party) was disappointed that the four Es of the Chancellor’s speech – enterprise, education, employment, and everywhere – did not include environmental concern. She complained that, instead of focusing on unblocking and upscaling existing renewables, Hunt chose to focus on a potentially dangerous technology that would be too expensive to keep.
Lucas also warned that not adding any provisions for environmental protection in the spring budget would compromise the country’s economy in the long run.