Why the UK needs both new nuclear power plants and new technology

Professional Opinions

October 19, 2020

The vast majority of people that are working on how we will achieve NetZero by 2050 agree that the answer is to use a combination of all available solutions. This means building as much wind, nuclear and solar energy as possible while developing solutions in energy efficiency, energy storage and carbon capture.

When it comes to nuclear energy, the UK needs both to build new nuclear plants such as the one proposed at Sizewell C and at the same time develop new technologies such as Rolls Royce’s Small Modular Reactor (SMR). Sizewell C and Rolls Royce SMR are not competing solutions as they bring different and complementary benefits.

Let’s start with Sizewell C. We need to replace the fleet of nuclear reactors that are reaching the end of their lives this decade. We can’t replace them with wind and solar alone, so we either need replacement nuclear plants or we will need to burn coal or gas to make electricity. The design of Sizewell C is the same as the one being built now at Hinkley Point C and it will provide thousands of well paid jobs for the UK in the coming 10 years and enough clean electricity to power 7% of the UK’s population for over 60 years. This fits perfectly with the UK’s ‘’Build Back Better’’ initiative – creating high value jobs and clean energy infrastructure.

Now let’s look at Rolls Royce SMR. The UK is not the only country committed to NetZero2050, which means there is a huge global market for advanced nuclear power reactors. Currently the UK does not make a nuclear reactor (the countries that do include the US, France, Canada, China, Japan, S Korea and Russia). The UK is respected around the world for our highly skilled engineers and high technology, so it makes perfect sense that we join the global market. In addition, we can deploy these SMRs in the UK as well to add to wind, big nuclear plants and solar in the journey to NetZero. What Rolls Royce is proposing is to build a new industry in the UK with huge export potential. This means an increasing volume of jobs and income for the UK that will build up over the coming decades.

Imagine if you had to choose between buying a house to live in or to make investments that will provide you with a return on investment over many years. The chances are you would not put all your available money in one or the other. The sensible thing would be both to look after your current needs (Sizewell C) and think about the future (Rolls Royce SMR). Build Back Better means Sizewell C + Rolls Royce SMR + Wind + Solar.

My purpose is to make a significant contribution towards achieving NetZero global carbon emissions by 2050. As founder and CEO of Thomas Thor Associates, and Chairman of KeySource Global, my role includes the growth and management of our global business, ensuring that the high level of professionalism and focus that people in the nuclear industry expect from us is maintained. As Co-founder of Diversity & Inclusion in UK Nuclear, I am deeply invested in building and sustaining a diverse workforce and an inclusive working environment in the nuclear industry.

Callum Thomas
LinkedIn

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