Whenever we enter a new decade people start to think of New Years resolutions, contemplated days gone by and looking forward to the next decade. When considering how the 2020’s will be looked back on when looking back in the future - specifically regarding the nuclear industry - it is difficult to not do this with a little pessimism.
“By 2030, all but one of our current nuclear fleet will have retired.”
Ieuan Williams, Public Affairs Manager at the NIA UK recently posted that with an air of justification “This is a line the nuclear industry has been using for some time. We thought it conveyed the urgent need to replace our ageing power plants and crack on with new build projects”.
He then goes on to say the “Despite this, the last decade saw only one development get the green light, with three others either mothballed or entirely scrapped.
This isn’t to say it’s all doom and gloom as we enter the 2020s: we now have a new Parliament, and a Government with a majority the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Blair days. With this comes the ability to do pretty much whatever they wish; we might even see some legislation go through Parliament – imagine that!
Since the election, there’s been plenty of commentary on the responsibility the Tories now have to those who lent them their vote in December, especially given they were from people who perhaps never thought they’d ever vote Conservative in their lifetime. This, combined with their support for nuclear in their manifesto, means minds are now focusing on efforts to revive projects in the North West of England, and North Wales.
Big infrastructure projects are easy wins in places like these, and the communities don’t forget it either: Cledwyn Hughes is still fondly remembered on Anglesey as the man who brought Wylfa, along with the aluminium smelter to Holyhead, and that was in the sixties.
In the post-election dialogue, there seems to be some real opportunity ahead of our industry. The Government is set on developing a ‘National Infrastructure Strategy’, work remains ongoing to develop a RAB for financing new nuclear; and let’s not forget about the Energy White Paper, all topped off by the Budget.
Set for 11 March, this will be the first major litmus test for how serious the Government is on delivering their election pledges.
We mustn’t allow ourselves stay in the position where the only projects in the pipeline are at Sizewell and Bradwell. There is potential for a new nuclear renaissance to take place in the UK, it’s a huge opportunity and now is the time to reach for it.
After all, in this decade, all but one of our current nuclear fleet will retire."
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