Hinkley C decision heralds UK nuclear renaissance

Published:  20 September, 2016

The UK government’s much delayed decision to proceed with the country’s first nuclear power station in a generation has been welcomed by IChemE.

The agreement, which is still to be confirmed in an exchange of letters between the government and EDF, will give a green light to the construction of a new 3.2GW power station at Hinkley point in Somerset, UK. The £20bn project is based around two pressurised water reactors designed by Areva and will create 25,000 jobs across the nuclear supply chain during the construction phase.

Following a review by new UK Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, The Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, additional contract terms have been stipulated. The new clauses are designed to enhance security and ensure that the power station cannot change hands without the UK government’s agreement. In future, operators of nuclear sites, including EDF, will be mandated to give notice of any proposed change of ownership to the Office of Nuclear Development. This will provide a window for further scrutiny by the UK government and the potential for a veto to be applied where ministers believe that national security may be compromised.

IChemE's Nuclear Technology Special Interest Group Chair, Lisa Hughes, said:

"UK government approval for this crucial energy project is great news. Nuclear power is a key reliable base load component of a balanced, low carbon energy mix. Chemical engineers are ready to support the delivery of Hinkley C, and the proposed developments by NUGEN and Horizon."

IChemE’s director of communication, Andrew Furlong said:

“Modern economies need a balanced portfolio of electricity generation and chemical engineers play a central role in the design and operation of power plants, including nuclear, gas and renewables. We have the capability to deliver safe and sustainable energy solutions, but market confidence is essential otherwise nothing gets done.

Hinkley C will ultimately supply 7% of the nation’s electricity needs. This decision could herald the UK’s long awaited nuclear renaissance and sends a powerful signal about the government’s commitment to nuclear power – subject to adequate safeguards being in place.

The hard work can now begin on design, procurement and construction. Lessons will be learned from EDF’s experiences in France and Finland. IChemE will work with the nuclear industry to deliver the education, training and skills that are needed to support a complex supply chain that will to create thousands of jobs, including many roles for skilled chemical and process engineers.”

The announcement will help to get UK’s carbon reduction strategy back on track. Alongside renewables and other emerging energy technologies, as discussed at the IChemE Energy Centre’s Low Carbon Summit on Friday 9 September 2016, the low-carbon baseload electricity generated at Hinkley C is expected to make a vital contribution to the UK’s Fifth Carbon Budget. This commits the UK to a largely decarbonised electricity supply by 2030.

IChemE also believes that the decision is good news for the nuclear industry more widely. A total of 16GW is now planned, or in the pipeline, including the Hitachi-Horizon proposal for three advanced boiling water reactors at Oldbury on the River Severn and Wylfa on the Isle of Anglesey in North Wales, and the NuGen proposal to build three pressurised water reactors near Sellafield in Cumbria.

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