In his spring 2023 budget speech to the House of Commons last Wednesday, U.K. chancellor of the exchequer Jeremy Hunt confirmed that, subject to consultation, nuclear power will be classified as environmentally sustainable in the U.K. green taxonomy, providing potential private investors in nuclear projects access to the same incentives currently enjoyed by investors in renewables. (Last year, the European Union added nuclear and natural gas to the list of green technologies covered by its taxonomy, but only on a transitional basis under what the European Commission termed “clear and strict conditions.”)
“We have increased the proportion of electricity generated from renewables from under 10 percent to nearly 40 percent,” Hunt declared. “But because the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine, we will need another critical source of cheap and reliable energy. And that is nuclear.”
More great news: Hunt further announced the launch of Great British Nuclear (GBN)—a governmental body tasked with developing a pipeline of new nuclear builds beyond Sizewell C—as well as a small modular reactor competition.
According to the chancellor, GBN “will bring down costs and provide opportunities across the nuclear supply chain to help provide up to one-quarter of our electricity by 2050.” The SMR competition, he added, “will be completed by the end of this year and if demonstrated as viable, we will cofund this exciting new technology.”
And in a March 16 press release on the new budget’s energy policy, the government noted that while GBN will initially focus on SMRs, it will also support the consideration of additional large gigawatt–scale projects. “GBN is intended to play a fundamental role in the delivery of clean, safe electricity for generations to come,” the release stated, “ensuring our country is no longer at the mercy of global fossil fuel markets and setting us inexorably on the path toward net zero.
More details on GBN’s setup, leadership, and operations are to be announced by the end of March.
Nuclear reaction: “This is a huge step forward for U.K. energy security and net zero,” raved Tom Greatrex, chief executive of Britain’s Nuclear Industry Association. “Nuclear’s inclusion in the U.K. green taxonomy is a vital move, following the example set by other leading nuclear nations, and will drive crucial investment into new projects, making it cheaper and easier to finance new reactors.
“The launch of Great British Nuclear with powers to select sites for new projects will make nuclear deployment much more efficient and give the supply chain a clear pipeline to work from. The SMR selection will put us back in the global race, creating opportunities for homegrown technology and others to bring jobs and investment to the U.K. and helping us capitalize on export opportunities in a massive global market.”