UK government accused of ‘repackaging’ existing pledges for ‘Nuclear Sector Deal’

The UK government has launched a £200m initiative designed to lower the cost of producing nuclear energy, but Labour claims that only £10m of it is new funding with the rest being “repackaged” old funding pledges.

Ministers said a so-called Nuclear Sector Deal would secure the UK’s diverse energy mix and lead to cheaper energy bills.

The initiative includes £32m from government and industry to kick-start new advanced manufacturing programmes including research and development investment to develop potential world-leading nuclear technologies like Advanced Modular Reactors.

The government also committed to increasing gender diversity in the civil nuclear workforce with a target of 40 per cent women by 2030.

But Rebecca Long Bailey, shadow business secretary, said the government was mostly repeating earlier funding announcements.

 “Like so much of the government’s industrial strategy, this sector deal is nothing more than a repackaging of existing policies.

“Of the £200m headline only £10m represents new government funding. In a week when the government refused to back the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon, this meagre support for low-carbon energy is particularly disappointing and will do nothing to improve the Conservatives’ green record.”

Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark was more upbeat about the new announcements, saying: “The UK is the home of civil nuclear technology and with this investment in innovation and our commitment to increasing diversity in an already highly skilled workforce, I want to ensure we remain the world leader.

“This Sector Deal marks an important moment for the government and industry to work collectively to deliver the modern Industrial Strategy, drive clean growth and ensure civil nuclear remains an important part of the UK’s energy future.”

The announcement comes during the release of the UK’s quarterly energy statistics, which showed that 10.2 per cent of final energy consumption in 2017 came from renewable sources, up from 9.2 per cent in 2016.

Total primary energy consumption in the first quarter of 2018 also rose by 3.3 per cent in comparison to the year before, although when adjusted to take account of weather differences energy consumption actually fell by 1.6 per cent. Nuclear generation accounted for 17.9 per cent of total electricity generated in the same period.

Co-chairman of the Nuclear Industry Council, Lord Hutton said: “The industry wants nuclear energy to remain competitive against other forms of low-carbon energy which is why we are committed to working with government to reduce costs across the sector.

“Today’s funding boost will support this common goal, increasing the UK’s industrial capabilities as well as signalling our global leadership in nuclear to the rest of the world.”

Measures include a new partnership with the Welsh government to develop a £40m thermal hydraulics facility in North Wales as part of the Nuclear Innovation Programme to support the design and development of advanced nuclear technologies.

A commitment was also made from industry to reduce the cost of new nuclear build projects by 30 per cent by 2030, and the cost of decommissioning old nuclear sites by 20 per cent by the same year.

E&T was contacted The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills to refute Labour’s £10m figure noting that up to £20m of new funding for an advanced manufacturing and construction programme was announced as part of the deal in addition to up to £10m for a new national supply chain programme.

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