‘All bets are off’ if carbon targets abandoned – Lord Hutton

The place of nuclear power in the UK’s present and future energy mix is being threatened by the emphasis the government are placing on its gas strategy.

That was the warning, asserted by the Chairman of the Nuclear Industry Association Lord Hutton, at the association’s annual conference in Westminster Hall, London on Thursday.
Lord Hutton
“It remains to be seen what importance the government places on low carbon. If we compromise on that all bets are off.”

Lord Hutton’s comments were made during the ‘Innovation in Nuclear’ debate of the Energy Choices conference. The wider discussion dealt with the place of nuclear power in Britain’s overall basket of fuel solutions, with a particular focus on the potential obstacles of cost and regulation.

Earlier Dr Sue Ion of the Royal Academy of Engineering also alluded to the impact on the nuclear sector if gas is favoured regardless of carbon emission commitments.

“If you don’t care about the carbon price then the argument being made is valid, from the point of view of price being the biggest driver.

However we still don’t know how much shale gas will cost long term.”

The panellists to the discussion were in agreement that the UK will be embracing a long term energy basket, and Dr Ion pointed out that nuclear compared favourably to other power generation in other aspects.

“We will always in this country try to have a sensible mix In terms of a reliable baseload and cost, nuclear is more than competitive with offshore wind for example.

Dr Ion went on to expound the benefits of small modular reactors as important to the success of Britain’s nuclear ambitions as well as ensuring that the entire supply chain demonstrated cost efficiency. “It’s about getting new nuclear competitive in a financially constrained world.”

Baroness Bryony Worthington asserted that it was vital for successful nuclear new build in Britain to get off to a good start and maintaining momentum.

“The key is to deliver on time and cost. There is a real tension at the moment about the and hopefully we can get first one away on time and on budget to bring about confidence. The strike price is also crucial.

The discussion concluded with a debate on the impact of regulation on the industry’s future prospects. Hope was expressed that European and global harmonisation could be achieved, while Dr Fiona Rayment of the National Nuclear Laboratory emphasised the essential need for a ‘very predictable, regular process, where companies understood clearly what hoops needed to be jumped through and what timescale and investments need to be made.”

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