CIEH warns that announcement is a ‘drop in the ocean’ and urges government to reverse plans for new oil, gas or coal excavation, while Greenpeace highlights the risks of nuclear technology
The UK government has announced funding worth £102m to support ‘clean’ energy production in the UK. It follows Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent impact on global energy prices.
The bulk of the money (£77m) is to bolster nuclear fuel production and support the development of the next generation of advanced nuclear reactors. The UK currently generates about 15% of its electricity needs from approximately 6.5GW of nuclear capacity, but most of that is set to be retired by the end of the decade.
To replace it, the government plans call for up to 24GW of mostly new capacity by 2050 to provide about 25% of the country’s needs. This includes a recent £700m investment in Sizewell C in Suffolk.
The innovation funding is intended to ‘kick start’ the next phase of research into the high-temperature gas reactors with the aim of having a demonstration project of the engineering design by the end of the decade.
Graham Stuart, Energy and Climate Minister said: “This funding package will strengthen our energy security, by ensuring we have a safe and secure supply of domestic nuclear fuel services – while also creating more UK jobs and export opportunities.”
The fact that nuclear energy is a zero-emission energy adds to the government’s enthusiasm as it can contribute to achieving net-zero. However, as Greenpeace points out, the technology produces large volumes of radioactive waste, is ‘water-hungry’ for cooling purposes and nuclear plants are particularly vulnerable to terrorist/cyber threats and acts of war.
A further £25 million has been allocated to supporting technologies that can produce hydrogen from sustainable biomass and waste, while removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The money will be used to take projects from the design stage to demonstration.
A spokesperson from Energy UK said that it welcomed the government news: “The £77m for new nuclear fuel is an important step for the next generation of nuclear reactors in the UK and will aid in increasing the UK’s energy security. This is a critical time for nuclear energy in the UK and the investments made are a good continuation in achieving these ambitions.
“The additional investment of £25m into hydrogen from BECCS (Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage) is a key step to advancing net-zero aims.”
“[The additional funding] falls short of what is needed to divest from our reliance on fossil fuels.”
Ross Matthewman, CIEH Head of Policy and Campaigns said that the additional funding was welcome as a means of improving energy security, driving down household bills and mitigating against one of the biggest causes of climate change: energy emissions.
However, he added: “It is a drop in the ocean compared with the levels of investment needed to rapidly increase our energy output from renewable and clean sources of energy and falls short of what is needed to divest from our reliance on fossil fuels.
“Furthermore, when viewed in the context of the UK government granting permission for a new coal mine in Cumbria, this appears to be an exercise in gesture politics. We urge the UK government to reverse plans for new oil, gas or coal excavation and to get fully behind cleaner sources of energy as a matter of national priority.”
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