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Nuclear industry event discusses development of new projects

Rob Micklewright, Senior Political Consultant | Dods Monitoring | Nuclear Industry Association

3 min read Partner content

The nuclear industry met in London this week for the 6th annual Nuclear New Build conference to discuss the development of new nuclear projects in the UK.

The event included speeches from government and regulators, the new nuclear minister at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and, for the first time, a public update from the Chinese developers aiming to build a new plant at Bradwell in Essex.

Opening the event, chair of the Nuclear Industry Association and former Business Secretary Lord Hutton said the nuclear industry had come a long way since 2008 when a vision of new nuclear was at the heart of the then Government’s new energy strategy. He explained that whilst the development stage had now begun, the industry needed to continue to make the case for new nuclear.

This included facing up to public scrutiny. In response to the critical National Audit Office report last week he said it was important to note that they had acknowledged the need for nuclear as part of a diverse energy mix and that it was cost comparable with other low-carbon sources.

Nevertheless, he stressed the strike price trajectory for future projects needed to be downward and suggested the time was right for government to consider looking at alternative financing arrangements.

This was a point echoed by Matt Clarke of the civil nuclear and resilience directorate at BEIS who said it was “incumbent on government to look at alternative funding models”.

Clark also discussed the Euratom treaty saying the department was setting up a new team to look at the issue of the UK’s withdrawal. He repeated the Government’s line that “Exit does not affect the government’s aims of maintaining close co-operation on civil nuclear safety with Euratom members and the rest of the world.”

Lord Hutton had earlier stressed the importance of sorting out the Euratom issue, and whilst he had welcomed the proposed nuclear safeguards bill as a first step, he said the Government should not rule out remaining in Euratom even at this late stage.

Clarke also reassured delegates that they should not read too much into the absence of nuclear in the Conservative manifesto saying there was a “clear and compelling case for nuclear”.

This was forced home by new energy minister Richard Harrington in his first public speech since taking on the role. He stressed nuclear was a key part of “consistent, cheap and clean” power system the Conservatives had emphasised in their manifesto.

On small modular reactors, he asked the industry to “wait a little longer whilst the government finalises its policy” but said potential vendors needed to demonstrate both the technological and business success of any technologies.

Rounding off the day Zhu Minhong, general manager international of nuclear business development division at China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) gave an update on the company’s progress towards developing a new power station at Bradwell B in Essex.

Minhong was keen to emphasise CGN’s plan to use local people in the development. He outlined plans to employ 35 local people by the end of 2018 as the Generic Design Assessment process ramped up.

He also highlighted the company’s plan to address the skills shortage in the nuclear industry, something he said would benefit the whole of the UK industry. He explained the company had signed agreements with two UK universities to take UK graduates to China to give them the necessary nuclear training and skills before bringing them back to the UK to work in the local industry.

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