The UK Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced in the UK’s 2023 Spring Budget on Wednesday that the government plans to to launch the “Great British Nuclear (GBN)” programme, which was first announced in April 2022.
The GBN project was first announced under previous Prime Minister Boris Johnson, as part of plans to source 95% of the UK’s electricity from “low carbon” sources, of which nuclear would be one.
Now, the government plans to support new nuclear builds, notably the development of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs). These smaller and transportable reactors have the capacity of up to 300MW(e) per unit, and will form the backbone of the GBN project.
According to the Spring Budget: “Small Modular Reactors will be the initial focus of GBN, but further gigawatt-scale projects will also be considered in future”.
Hunt also announced that nuclear would be redefined as a ‘green’ energy in the UK, thus counting towards net-zero targets. He said: “to encourage private sector investment into our nuclear programme, today I confirm that subject to consultation nuclear power will be classed as environmentally sustainable”.
GBN will launch a competition through which engineers will compete to design SMRs to power UK homes. Hunt said that the projects will be completed by the end of the year and “if demonstrated as viable [the government] will co-fund this exciting new technology”.
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Building up nuclear
In the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, made in November 2022, the UK government reaffirmed their support for the Sizewell C nuclear project in the south of England. The government committed $844m (£700m) in funding for the EDF development, and Hunt referred to Sizewell C as evidence of increased government efforts toward nuclear power.
The chancellor claimed that GBN “will bring down costs and provide opportunities across the nuclear supply chain to help provide one quarter of our electricity by 2050”.
Hunt claimed that the amount of UK electricity generated from renewables has increased from under 10% in 2010 to almost 40% but went on to say that the UK will “need another critical source of cheap and reliable energy – and that is nuclear”.