The future of U.K. nuclear power


Another reason for the visit was to talk to senior executives of potential investors in the U.K. nuclear market. These meetings confirmed that there is tremendous international investor interest in the U.K.’s nuclear renaissance. Investor confidence will be dependent upon focusing relentlessly on what I would describe as five key building blocks — regulation, planning, sites, waste, and skills.

We have one of the most effective nuclear regulatory regimes in the world. Safety, of course, is paramount for us all. But there is always more we can do. I have long believed that the effectiveness of our regulatory system can be a key differentiator for attracting inward investment.

Shortlisting the generic reactor designs to be submitted for more detailed assessment is another key milestone. We have begun this prioritization process and are now inviting the industry to bring forward new designs for a Justification Decision that I need to make in the next few months — an important stage in getting the first new-build started.

Creating an efficient, predictable and fair planning regime is, perhaps, one of the most important factors that companies take into account when deciding where to locate their investment. And just to remind ourselves, it took six years to secure planning consent for the £30 million Sizewell B plant. Despite this, only 30 of the 340 days of the inquiry were focused on local issues.

The urgent challenge of climate change and energy security can’t be compromized like this again. The Planning Reform Bill, currently being debated by Parliament, will help us tackle such long, inefficient, costly and unnecessary delays.

We need, therefore, to make sure there are sufficient sites available for our new generation of nuclear stations. So, in addition to the process that British Energy is going through, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority has now made areas close to existing sites available for consideration.

We have also worked closely with potential investors to develop detailed guidance to progress the Funded Decommissioning Programs for New Nuclear Power Stations. Finally, recognizing the importance of continued progress on waste management, DEFRA [Department of Food, Environment, and Rural Affairs] will be setting out later this spring in a White Paper how it plans to take forward the safety program to manage radioactive waste.

The potential scale and complexity of each investment is breathtaking. Just replacing our existing capacity will