This week’s nuclear energy showcase in London is one of those occasions when we can really shout about British expertise and opportunities on the world stage. As a pioneer in nuclear energy, our highly capable and competitive industry is recognised as one of the global leaders.
But this is more than a showcase; it is an opportunity to further cement our plans for a secure, low carbon energy future by providing an opportunity to share experiences with overseas partners who can help us to deliver a new generation of nuclear power stations.
The interest from countries like France and China reflects a sense of real momentum in our nuclear industry, a momentum which will result in affordable and secure low carbon energy, whilst also generating thousands of jobs for the UK. Hinkley Point C in Somerset is expected to start generating electricity in 2023, whilst four other sites have firm plans for new power stations - we really do stand on the verge of the largest expansion of the civil nuclear industry in generations.
Hinkley alone is set to generate a stable source of clean power to nearly 6 million homes once it is up and running and will provide 25,000 jobs during construction. This is good news for communities across the UK as EDF has indicated that up to 57% of the opportunities at Hinkley Point C could be awarded to UK companies, while Horizon has estimated this to be 60% for their Wylfa project in Wales.
The job opportunities aren’t just in new nuclear. In decommissioning, our companies will provide a significant contribution to overseas civil nuclear programmes, after spending years building up an extensive array of specialist expertise and technology. By 2030, the International Atomic Energy Authority estimates that 145 reactors will have been decommissioned at a cost of £250bn: the total liability for reactors, fuel cycle facilities and research activities over the next 50 years is estimated at approximately $1 trillion. I want to see the UK take advantage of this and for our nuclear industry to become a true global leader.
To support this vision DECC, BIS and others have provided more than £100 million for nuclear innovation since 2012. We are ensuring that UK businesses benefit from the estimated 29,000 to 41,000 new jobs and deliver substantial economic benefit to our economy. From universities who will supply a future workforce and carry out essential research to manufacturers who can help build a new power station, there is a lot to gain from nuclear.
For my part, I am especially interested in ensuring that career opportunities are open to everyone and that we strive for a genuine gender balance in the UK’s nuclear industry. There are various initiatives with industry and government representation making headway on this issue – including POWERful Women, which I co-founded last June, and Women in Nuclear. Yet we need companies across the energy sector to take individual ownership and place diversity firmly at the heart of recruitment, retention and progression. It is important that we are able to embrace the challenges and opportunities presented by our future low carbon energy mix with a truly representative workforce.
It is also worth reiterating that, for the first time, all new nuclear power stations will be built without money from the British taxpayer and will be supported by a fair electricity price for industry. This will be supported by the reforms we’re carrying out to the UK’s energy market which is seeing us create one of the most attractive electricity investment markets in the world. When they’ve stopped generating electricity for us, it’s the operators that will pick up the cost of safely decommissioning and cleaning up the sites and managing the waste.
So, alongside other low carbon energy sources, it is clear that delivering on the new nuclear programme will not only help us achieve the secure, reliable and low-carbon energy the UK needs, but it will also create outstanding opportunities for the UK economy.
Existing and new nuclear power generation is the right thing for the UK; it will help keep the lights on, cut carbon in our electricity industry and drive our economy now and in the future.