New Nuclear Energy - Necessary for Energy Security?

Simone Protheroe, Senior Associate in the construction team at Clarke Wilmott, who leads on nuclear energy activity shares her thoughts on the importance of nuclear energy for UK energy security.

Back in 2016, EDF’s Board of Directors made the final investment decision to sign off all the contracts and agreements necessary to build the two nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point C (HPC) in Somerset. The landmark decision to build the UK’s first large scale nuclear energy plant since Sizewell B in 1995 was welcomed for many reasons.

In addition to generating 7% of the UK low carbon energy needs for around 6 million homes for over 60 years, the once in a generation opportunity would provide economic growth locally, regionally and nationally.

With a plan to create 1,000 apprenticeships, 25,000 high skilled jobs in its construction, two-thirds of contracts to go to UK companies and significant investment in local socio-economic projects, it will provide a reliable base layer of emission free energy for the UK.

Whilst there have been some time delays in construction for various reasons, including Covid-19 in the last couple of years good progress is being made. One important aspect, which in light of cost of living is worth a special mention, is that while there have been increases in build cost this burden will not be passed to the UK tax payer as the unit strike price was agreed at the beginning of the contract. 

This first major project in Somerset aims to kick start the renaissance in new nuclear energy, generating at least 20% of all UK energy needs. Sizewell, Bradwell and Wylfa all have been discussed with plans submitted as potential sites for large scale nuclear energy plants building on the legacy of existing plants at these locations.

From an energy security perspective nuclear is considered an essential element in the low carbon energy mix due to its longevity and security. As the UK reduces its reliance on fossil fuels to reach net zero by 2050, the shortfall cannot be generated from established renewable energy sources such as solar and wind due intermittence issues in lack of sun and wind during certain periods.

When the decision to build HPC was made, the energy white paper had not been published emphasising the need for large scale nuclear and the UK had not committed to net zero by 2050. Recent events in Ukraine affecting supply of Russian gas exports have brought energy security into sharp focus.

Following a long and rigorous process the UK Government announced its decision on the application for a Development Consent Order for The Sizewell C (SZC) project was taken and approved in July 2022, by the then BEIS Secretary State Kwasi Kwarteng. Combined with HPC, SZC will provide nearly 14% of UK energy requirements going forward for many decades. Whilst the green light EDF to start building in earnest is subject to funding it can only be a matter of time if reliance on imported energy is to be reduced.    

In addition to HPC and SZC the emerging opportunity of small modular reactors (SMR) should not be forgotten. In the UK this technological development is arguably being led by Rolls Royce, but as with all nuclear energy it must be safe, deliverable, scalable and cost competitive for it to be widely embraced. The Rolls-Royce SMR technology has multiple applications, from traditional grid and industrial electricity production to hydrogen and synthetic fuel manufacturing.

There are impelling times ahead which along with large new scale nuclear can drive long term energy security for the country. It will be interesting to see what announcements are made to support energy security in the next budget which could delivered in the next couple of months. 

Since 2016 I have been actively involved with the HPC project in supporting various Tier 1 contractors both site operations and engineering firms in helping them to secure and deliver their contracts, working with colleagues across various specialist areas of Clarke Willmott including corporate, commercial and my area of construction.

Having been born in the South East and living close to Sizewell, I can see the benefits of building SZC will bring in terms of economic prosperity and energy security. With my experience with the HPC project I look forward to helping SZC contractors achieve their aspirations over the coming months and years.    

Other Useful Information

Get In Touch

Share This Page

More Blogs

Thought Leadership

Posted July 24, 2023

Industry News
Thought Leadership

Posted February 9, 2023