UK to make ‘big bets’ on nuclear power in move away from Russian oil

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said now is the time “to make a series of big new bets” on nuclear power as part of efforts to eliminate the UK’s reliance on Russian oil imports.

Last week, the government committed to phase out Russian oil by the end of the year in response to Russia's aggressive actions in Ukraine.

Writing in the Telegraph, Johnson said that his government wanted to “exploit the potential” of renewable energy technologies including tidal power, hydro and geothermal energy but that consistent baseload electricity generation could be met with nuclear when renewables aren’t generating.

The strategy would include small modular reactors as well as more traditional, larger power stations.

“It was the UK that first split the atom. It was the UK that had the world’s first civilian nuclear power plant. It is time we recovered our lead,” Johnson wrote.

Just last month, the UK Office for Nuclear Regulation approved the design for a new nuclear power plant to be built in Bradwell, Essex.

Johnson also offered some words of encouragement to the UK’s domestic fossil fuel producers.

“It is crazy that we are importing oil and gas from Putin’s Russia when we have our own resources in the North Sea,” he added. “It is time to give investors more confidence in British hydrocarbons. That way, we will have more domestic energy resilience as we make the transition to a zero-carbon future.”

Currently, the North Sea’s reserves are privatised so any oil that is produced is priced according to the global markets and therefore does not contribute to the UK’s energy security. Johnson didn’t elaborate on how future oil production could change this.

“We will need hydrocarbons to make hydrogen – the low-carbon fuel that has perhaps the greatest potential of all,” he added.

Hydrogen made using fossil fuels (known as blue hydrogen) is not considered to be low-carbon or environmentally friendly, only that which is created via electrolysis in a process powered by renewable energy.

Last year, a study by Cornell and Stanford University researchers found blue hydrogen actually has a carbon footprint significantly greater than natural gas, diesel and even coal.

Johnson is heading to Saudi Arabia today as part of a push to get the country to increase its oil and gas production to replace the lost Russian sources.

A recent survey of more than 1,000 British adults by Ipsos found nearly nine in 10 people (88 per cent) were concerned about the price of home energy and more than three quarters of people support investing more in renewables and energy efficiency to cut reliance on imports.

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