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The UK government’s ambition to more than triple Britain’s nuclear power generation capacity by 2050 badly lacks of a strategic plan to achieve it, according to a report published on Monday.
The “stretching” government target on nuclear energy is the right direction but ministers need to be clear on how they propose to get there in order to encourage investment, MPs on the House of Commons science, innovation and technology committee said.
Their report is the latest criticism of the government over its progress towards meeting the UK’s net zero carbon emissions goal by 2050.
The Climate Change Committee, which advises ministers, said in June that the UK’s progress on cutting emissions was “worryingly slow”.
In 2022, then prime minister Boris Johnson announced that the government wanted the UK to have about 24 gigawatts of nuclear power generation capacity by 2050 — supplying about a quarter of the country’s electricity. That compares to less than 7GW now.
The target was set partly in response to surging energy prices connected to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine — with the UK government keen to cut reliance on imported gas.
However, the committee said this had not been followed up with a strategic plan.
It highlighted continuing uncertainty over, among other things, what mix of nuclear technologies the government intends to meet the target and the shape of state support.
The committee said the UK’s nuclear workforce of about 65,000 will “need to more than double”.
The MPs said: “Witnesses to our inquiry characterised the government’s energy security strategy, published in April 2022, as more of a ‘wish list’ than a strategy to achieve those ambitions.”
The committee called on government to develop a “comprehensive nuclear strategic plan” by the end of this parliament.
Tom Greatrex, chair of the Nuclear Industry Association, a trade body, welcomed the recommendation, adding: “The UK is well positioned to become a global hub for nuclear investment . . . If we don’t act now, we will lose out on energy security, environmental sustainability and jobs for our people.”
The energy department highlighted this month’s launch of Great British Nuclear, a government body to oversee nuclear development “which will help generate billions for the UK economy and support thousands of jobs”.
It added: “We have already made clear we will publish a nuclear road map . . . Nuclear has a vital role to play in reaching net zero and boosting energy security.”