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UK government remains committed to nuclear, minister says

Speaking at the Nuclear Industry Association's Nuclear New Build 2017 conference in London yesterday, Energy Minister Richard Harrington said the government is committed to following through on its big initiatives, including the clean growth plan and industrial strategy. The nuclear industry, he said, "certainly has a big part to play in both of those as we look forward to expanding and decarbonising our economy". Having a diverse mix of energy sources "will be a real asset".

"Over the next decades many of our existing plants will be coming to the end of their lives but the demand for low-carbon electricity will surely be on the increase," he said. "That's why new nuclear will have a key role to play in the years ahead and why there are so many opportunities to be found in this industry."

The Conservative Party manifesto for the General Election held on 8 June pledged to ensure any industry or business had access to consistent, cheap and clean power, he said. Acknowledging that the manifesto did not explicitly say that nuclear would be included in this diverse range of energy sources needed to achieve this, Harrington said "We are very much on record on what we mean."

"Diversity of supply means we can take advantage of the best available forms of power while continuing to innovate and improve as we go," he said. "Our energy policy is based on reliable and affordable energy and the government recognises that new nuclear will have a part to play in this diverse energy mix."

Small modular reactors

The government recognises the potential of small modular reactors (SMRs), he said, and is "keen to see them work, both as a technology and as a business model". Such reactors could help the UK to meet its energy and climate change challenges "at a lower cost and create opportunities for new high-value jobs", he added.

In order to deploy SMRs successfully, vendors will need to achieve the cost reductions associated with the SMR business model and deliver energy that is cost competitive with comparable sources, he said. The right market conditions and regulatory framework must also be in place.

The UK government launched an SMR competition last year. This, Harrington said, has "helped our knowledge base in several ways. In particular, it's improved our understanding of the range of SMR technologies available, given us an opportunity to consider the claims from the vendors about the potential of their designs and it's given industry an opportunity to discuss issues and concerns, including identifying potential barriers. And it's provided valuable insight into the wider conditions industry considers necessary for delivering SMRs to the UK."


Last week the government formally entered its Brexit negotiations with the European Commission - including its exit from the Euratom Treaty. The nuclear industry will have a special interest in these negotiations, Harrington said.

"We are determined to avoid any interruption to our civil nuclear regime and we remain absolutely committed to the high standards in nuclear safety, safeguards and support for the industry," he said. "Our aims are clear. The UK's withdrawal from Euratom will in no way diminish our nuclear ambitions because the nuclear industry remains of key strategic importance to the UK and the government is committed to delivering a world-leading nuclear sector in close cooperation with Euratom and our international counterparts."

In the Queen's Speech released last week, the UK government said it will set up a domestic nuclear safeguards regime in consultation with the Office for Nuclear Regulation. Harrington said, "This will enable us to continue to meet international safeguards and non-proliferation obligations after we leave Euratom."

He added: "There is a clear common interest between international parties in maintaining close and effective cooperation on nuclear issues and we are confident that we will reach the right agreement with our European partners. The exact arrangements for our safeguards after we leave Euratom is being developed with input from the regulator, industry and international partners being sought."

The UK is committed to continue meeting international standards for nuclear safeguards, he said.

"Maintaining the continuity of our mutually successful civil nuclear cooperation with Euratom and international partners is also a key priority. We already have bilateral nuclear cooperation agreements in place with several countries and we expect these to continue. To ensure that civil nuclear trade and cooperation with non-European partners - like the USA, Canada, Australia and Japan - is not disrupted by our exit from Euratom, we are negotiating directly with these partners so that appropriate nuclear cooperation agreements will be in place."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News