Nuclear power investment must not be delayed

The UK can realise a £10bn economic opportunity through adopting a new, holistic approach to nuclear energy that would tackle concerns over security of energy supply, rising oil prices and safety issues, a new report by the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment (SSEE) has concluded.

‘A low carbon nuclear future: Economic assessment of nuclear materials and spent nuclear fuel management in the UK‘ explores possible future scenarios to accelerate the delivery of a safe, holistic and long-term strategy for current and future nuclear material and spent fuel management. It assesses likely costs, risks, safety and potential returns to the UK taxpayer and the wider economy, and looks at options for existing and new facilities at Sellafield.

Professor Sir David King, Director of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment said: “Currently the UK has a window of opportunity to deal with its nuclear material and spent fuel management and to maximise the value of its existing assets. The renaissance in new nuclear build creates an advantageous way of using these legacy materials as fuel for new nuclear power plants. Despite the terrible events in Japan, the economic, safety and carbon case for a new build programme in the UK has never been stronger.

Our report evaluates scenarios that would reduce cost to the taxpayer and create billions of pounds of economic opportunity through new skills and jobs, as well as reducing carbon emissions and increasing energy security and safety.  The potential benefits of examining nuclear materials and spent fuel stocks as a potential asset and managing these alongside new build reactors, through an all encompassing UK nuclear power policy, are clarified through this investigation.”

In considering the policy levers enabling the safe management of our nuclear legacy – through storage, reprocessing or disposal – the report concludes that the “do nothing” option will lead to the worst outcome for the taxpayer and for the UK’s future security.

Separated plutonium, uranium, current spent AGR fuel and waste generated by future reactors must be tackled.  The UK needs to choose to follow strategies that treat these as a resource for recycling into new fuel, with considerable economic benefits for the UK and particularly for West Cumbria.  The UK’s nuclear clean-up missions have not kept up with new nuclear build plans and need to be reviewed.

Dr Neil Bentley, CBI Deputy Director-General, said:

“The terrible events in Japan are a horrific reminder of why safety has to be the number one concern when it comes to nuclear energy.

“At the same time, nuclear has to remain a solution to fulfilling our objectives to secure a future low carbon, affordable energy mix for the UK. The UK’s nuclear legacy must be addressed in a safe, cost-effective manner and this report is an important step towards new nuclear being an even more secure low-carbon source of energy, in a world of rising uranium prices.”

You can download the Sir David King report here.

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