BNFL chief urges Government to build more nuclear plant

The Chief Executive of BNFL, Norman Askew, has said that the continued use of nuclear power is essential for an environmentally-friendly supply and the company is to call on the Government to put the right enabling mechanisms in place which will allow nuclear plant construction.

“Nuclear energy must continue to play a significant role in the UK’s baseload electricity generation – without nuclear’s contribution this country cannot have a continued secure, diverse and environmentally-friendly energy supply,” Askew warned an international audience of energy industry leaders and policy makers at the World Nuclear Association Conference in London. In its submission to the Government’s Energy Policy Review (see related story), BNFL said it will call on the Government to put the right enabling mechanisms in place which will allow new nuclear generation by the market, which must include:

  • modifying climate change mechanisms to recognise that nuclear generation should benefit from the fact that it emits virtually no greenhouse gases;
  • improving planning and regulatory approval processes to ensure replacement nuclear plant construction can be delivered effectively and efficiently;
  • reviewing how long-term electricity supply contracts, for all baseload generators, can be implemented;
  • providing an overall policy for radioactive waste management (see related story in this week’s UK news); and
  • encouraging provision of nuclear education, training and research and development.

BNFL’s submission to the Energy Policy Review also considers the challenges ahead and concludes that retaining “the important contribution that the UK nuclear industry makes is the only way to ensure security of baseload supply in the future whilst addressing the serious problem of climate change”. Clearly, renewables have an important role to play in restricting greenhouse gas emissions but cannot fulfil baseload requirements, BNFL says.

Nuclear generating capacity will fall from 23% to only 5% by 2020 if new nuclear construction does not take place, and with UK gas reserves close to depletion the country will be overly dependent on imported gas resulting in an insecure supply, volatile electricity prices and an inability to meet the UK’s greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, the company says.

BNFL, with 23,000 employees worldwide, is perfectly positioned to compete in a future market place with its new generation of reactor designs, it says. New nuclear power station designs, such as the BNFL-owned Westinghouse AP600 or AP1000, have shorter construction times and lower capital costs, and are expected to be competitive with all other forms of baseload generation. The AP600 is already licensed in the USA. Additionally, BNFL services its nuclear utility customers world wide with its capability in fuel manufacturing, management of spent fuel and ultimately decommissioning the reactors at the end of their lives.

At the end of last year BNFL’s Chairman Hugh Collum called for an informed and open public debate on the future of nuclear energy. The announcement of a UK Government Energy Review is, he believes, an important first step in that process.

A spokesperson for the Department of Trade and Industry told edie that no comment could be made on a return to nuclear build until the Government’s review of energy policy was completed at the end of the year. “The BNFL Chairman’s statements are part of the Government’s consultation process in its review of energy policy, and so the DTI will not comment on them until the review is complete,” he said.

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