New Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng must ‘get his skates on’ and make 2021 the year the Government finally commits to building nuclear projects, the industry has said.
As he sits down to address his overflowing in-tray, inherited from Alok Sharma who left to focus on his climate conference role, Kwarteng has been urged to decide quickly – as the UK faces the threat of blackouts in the early 2030s.
Ministers are mulling plans to allow EDF to build the Sizewell C power station in Suffolk, as well as a separate project to create a fleet of mini reactors.
Action plan: Kwasi Kwarteng has been urged to decide quickly – as the UK faces the threat of blackouts in the early 2030s
And plans to build a huge nuclear plant in north Wales are looking increasingly sketchy after Japanese firm Hitachi, whose subsidiary Horizon Nuclear was lead developer, said it was going to shut the project down.
Around 18.5 per cent of Britain’s power is generated by nuclear energy, but most reactors will be shut down in a few years.
Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, said: ‘The clock has been ticking ever louder towards our clean power fleet of nuclear stations retiring. Without urgency in decisions, we run the risk of falling far short of the amounts of low-carbon power we will need.’
Peter McIntosh, at union Unite, said: ‘The Business Secretary needs to get his skates on. There have been too many false dawns.’
Of six sites earmarked for reactors, only Hinkley Point C, is being built. In mid-December ministers released the much-delayed Energy White Paper, in which they promised to make a final decision on at least one major project by 2024, meaning it might not be built until the mid-2030s.
The Government also said it was in financing talks with EDF for Sizewell C.
A Rolls-Royce-led project for half a dozen or more mini-nuclear reactors would also take 10 years.
A senior industry source said: ‘In 2021, Government has to get serious about the scale of the challenge and show how we’re going to get there – or tell the Prime Minister he’s way too ambitious.’