ETI: New nuclear key for Britan's low-carbon transition
New nuclear reactors have a major role to play in delivering low-carbon electricity in the UK, the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) has claimed.
In a new report released today (7 October), the ETI – a public-private partnership between global energy and engineering companies and the UK Government – said that large-scale reactors could provide up to 35GW of baseload capacity, while a ‘fleet’ of small modular reactors (SMRs) could provide combined heat and power (CHP) generation.
The report’s author Mike Middleton said: “A range of analyses by the ETI and others suggest that new nuclear power, along with conventional power stations with carbon capture and storage (CCS) and renewables are likely to be the key technologies delivering low carbon electricity in the future in the UK.”
Although the ETI report doesn’t mention Hinkley Point by name, its central argument is calling for more projects of similar scale.
The £24.5bn Hinkley plant has been criticised by economists and environmentalists alike, as Britain has promised to guarantee a price of £92.5/MWh for Hinkley electricity for the next 35 years – more than twice the current market rate, and more than the cost of onshore wind generation.
Experts have warned that as the cost of renewables continue to fall, locked-in nuclear contracts could become a 'white elephant'. However, in a recent poll of more than 500 edie readers, 75% said the Government should continue to subsidise nuclear power, as a low-carbon way of displacing oil and gas.
The other part of the ETI’s plan, SMR’s, would help offer more flexibility and could deliver low-carbon heat into cities via hot water pipelines up to 30km in length. Middleton did warn that the UK deployment of these 50-300MW units could still be 15 years away.
He said: “There is still much uncertainty about the costs and schedules for potential deployment in the UK, but action needs to be taken now if the option to deploy SMRs as part of the low carbon energy system transition is not to be closed off.”
“The next 10 years will be critical in developing the deployment-readiness of key technology options for the UK’s low carbon transition to 2050. New nuclear plants can form a major part of an affordable transition, with both large nuclear and SMRs potentially playing a significant role.”
The ETI has been consistent in its message that renewables alone will not allow the UK to decarbonise in a cost-effective way. In March this year it said that biomass power combined with CCS was the ‘only credible route’ to deliver the negative emissions needed to meet the UK's 2050 climate change targets.
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