Call me optimistic, and trust me, that’s not what I’m often called, but to me it’s starting to look like nuclear may finally be back on the radar for the UK, at least in the form of tentative steps towards kickstarting once-ailing projects and renewing ageing others. There may even be some hope lingering in the recently announced Energy Bill, of which there are unfortunately many negative aspects covering some surprisingly positive ones for the industry and it’s future in terms of project certainty and subsidies.
The acquisition of the infamous Horizon nuclear site has undoubtedly proved as the catalyst for this, and has been the butt of many coalition-directed jokes for some time now, after E.ON and RWE put the project up for sale in March following that fateful nuclear-backlash from Fukushima (brief thoughts on that coming later). Many thought it signalled the gradual and undignified death of the industry at the hands of public outcry and atrocious safety hazards, and I included believed it highly unlikely to be seeing any new reactors planned for some decades to come, if at all. Fortunately, it seems our overseas Asian friends think otherwise.
Hitachi recently completed the sale of Horizon at £700million and plans to begin construction of two to three plants at each of the two sites, and more importantly is planning on implementing cutting-edge technology in an attempt to reduce costs and build times, as well as to placate those who feel nuclear is dirty, dangerous and likely to kill us all one day. These AWBRs, or Advanced Water Boiling Reactors are apparently the ‘only advanced nuclear reactors licensed and in production around the world, and have been built on time and within cost’, unlike pretty much any other European reactor currently being constructed.
They intend the plants to produce 1.3GW of electricity each, and to create over 12,000 jobs in the process, yet again boosting one of the only sectors to truly be growing in this current climate, the green and low-carbon economy. With this much extra juice and investment flowing into our ‘green and pleasant lands’ without the added worry of carbon emissions during use, a rather large hole which would have inevitably formed as old plants were shut down can hopefully be plugged.