The energy structure of the UK may be subject to changes in the future. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently commented that he hopes to see 25% of the country’s power supply sourcing from nuclear energy.
The ratio of nuclear energy is merely 16% in the UK, with numerous nuclear power plants awaiting decommissioning, though the figure may not drop in the future as Prime Minister Boris Johnson had recently met with the executives of Rolls-Royce, as well as nuclear industrial companies such as Electricite de France (EDF), Westinghouse, and Bechtel, to discuss accelerating the development of nuclear power plants and locating funds for these plants. A number of insurance and pension companies also attended the meeting, including Aviva, Legal & General, and Rothesay Life.
The UK has been putting efforts in establishing new nuclear power plants for decades, which has yet to lead to any fruition, where Japan-based Hitachi had exited from the Wylfa Nuclear Power Plant project of Wales in 2020, while the Sizewell C Nuclear Power Plant co-established by EDF and China General Nuclear (CGN) is also trailing in progress due to geopolitical factors.
The UK is also seeing a gradual decline of nuclear power plants. The Hunterston B in Scotland had been decommissioned earlier this year, while the Hinkley Point C Nuclear Power Station will be shutting down this summer, whereas the Heysham I and Hartlepool I are also bidding farewell in 2024, when the installed capacity of nuclear power will drop to 3.6GW then.
Owing to the intermittence of renewable energy, as well as surging fossil fuel prices, the UK believes that nuclear power is one of the methods to balance the power grid, since additional power sources would become indispensable after increment of power consumption in the future. After the unprecedented skyrocketing of fossil fuel prices, the UK government has been convening frequent discussions on energy policies for the past several months, including the meeting with executives with oil and gas companies last week in the hope of accelerating investment at the North Sea, and the meeting with executives of offshore wind power suppliers next week that would expand renewable energy programs.
According to the coverage, Johnson believes that it is the lack of long-term leadership in nuclear energy that resulted in the desolation of the UK government by other countries such as France. Tom Greatrex, CEO of the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA), commented that nuclear power programs are necessary in lowering energy cost and the exorbitant imported natural gas, since the country is marching towards the zero emission target, and implementation in nuclear power plans of various sizes would also be a necessity when expanding investment in renewable energy in the future, which is also the reason why the country needs power sources that are clean and autonomous.
Parties are also urging to increase the installed capacity of nuclear energy to 15GW by 2030, before another increment to 30GW by 2050 that will be much higher than the peak capacity of 12.7GW during 1995.
(Cover photo is a sketch; source: Flickr/Jeanne Menjoulet CC BY 2.0)