Navigating the Civil Nuclear Roadmap
Written by James Bevis on January 22nd 2024
Written by James Bevis on January 22nd 2024
In early January, the UK nuclear industry got its first look at the Government’s Civil Nuclear Roadmap. It is an ambitious programme of funding, development and support, which aims to be the fuel which drives Great British Nuclear. Following global energy uncertainty on the eve of the second anniversary of the war in Ukraine, the Roadmap seeks to build our country’s energy independence through a sustainable and cost-effective supply. Our nuclear estate and its expansion is the key.
The roadmap is a nice idea and it seeks to address a number of problems. Namely, our reliance on non-domestic fuel and spiralling energy bills. Problems such as these force us to be creative, and when creating something, the process always starts with an idea to address those problems. That’s what makes engineering exciting; a simple notion that ‘a thing’ has the potential to become something more.
Each week, I have the opportunity to walk the floor of our factory in Bury. As a manufacturing facility, it is much older than our UK nuclear industry. Ideas and solutions to problems are commonplace in a manufacturing environment. On a daily basis, the ideas we have are turning rolls of steel into pieces of ductwork; and many pieces into HVAC systems.
The process often takes time, but in our factory that creative process enters an extremely critical state. Ultimately, an idea is just a thought, and potential remains unfulfilled, unless of course you do something to change.
The response from across the nuclear sector has been largely positive to the publication of the Civil Nuclear Roadmap. EDF pledged to support the roadmap, deliver aspects of the portfolio and support the national recruitment effort. The NIA called Nuclear an “integral part of the UK’s route to energy security” and welcomed the commitments to Sizewell C and SMR research, whilst urging Government to collaborate fully with the UK’s nuclear supply chain.
There are the obvious sceptics to the plan, but by and large these come from commentators based outside the industry. Within the UK nuclear circle the reaction is best summarised as cautiously optimistic.
There are two reasons why the nuclear industry might be feeling cautious. Chiefly, because the press release speaks to ambitions rather than policy commitments. 3-7GW worth of new nuclear investment decisions every 5 years to 2044 sounds fantastic. Seeing it written in an election manifesto would be even better. Which leads onto the second reason, that of 2024’s looming General Election. Both the Conservatives and Labour are commited to supporting nuclear, but politics changes quickly. Political certainty in late 2024 will help to crystallise the precise route of the roadmap.
Like the energy in an atom, the Civil Nuclear Roadmap has much potential. At Exyte Hargreaves we applaud the announcement and are excited to support our colleagues in the nuclear sector as its ideas are brought to life.
The UK’s net zero target is due in 2050. As the new year broke on 1 January, that deadline now stands at just 26 years away. It’s shorter than the gap between the completion of Sizewell B and the beginning of Hinkley Point C. That gives some context to the scale of the challenge ahead.
It was announced by Sizewell C that the project is now in its construction phase. In December, HPC hit a memorable milestone as Big Carl lifted the reactor building roof into place. The good news in nuclear is starting to stack up. Hopefully it bears the signs of the momentum which our nuclear sector craves.
There’s a lot to like in the press release. The UK is becoming more self-sufficient. There is a massive boost for local communities and the wider UK employment market. And it’s fantastic to see the UK leading on new technology innovations. Exyte Hargreaves is ready to play our part in helping Great British Nuclear and our colleagues within the nuclear sector. Together we can deliver on our potential and bring life to these exciting ideas.
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