As the nuclear option looks less and less sensible, it becomes harder to explain Whitehall’s enthusiasm. Might it be to do with the military?
Against a worldwide background of declining fortunes for nuclear power, UK policy enthusiasm continues to intensify. Already pursuing one of the most ambitious nuclear new-build agendas in the world, Britain is seeking to buck 50 years of experience to develop an entirely new and untested design of small modular reactors (SMRs). In 2016, then energy and climate secretary, Amber Rudd, summed up the government’s position: “Investing in nuclear is what this government is all about for the next 20 years.”
Despite unique levels of long-term policy support, this nuclear new-build programme is severely delayed, with no chance of operations beginning as intended “significantly before 2025”, Costs have mushroomed, with even government figures showing renewables like offshore wind to already be far more affordable. With renewable costs still plummeting, global investments in these alternatives are now already greater than for all conventional generating technologies put together. With worldwide momentum so clear, the scale of UK nuclear ambitions are an international anomaly.