Boris Johnson will chair a meeting on Monday on how to increase the UK’s nuclear power output, as he prepares to publish his energy security strategy this month amid soaring prices.
The Prime Minister will discuss national nuclear plans with nuclear industry leaders at a roundtable in Downing Street, Number 10 said.
Johnson is expected to release the government’s energy security strategy later in March, amid soaring energy bills, which were already creating a cost-of-living crisis even before Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine prompted ministers to commit to phasing out Russian energy.
The UK produced less than half (43%) of its electricity from renewable sources in 2020, and gas-fired power stations still play an important role, with Britain relying on gas for heating as well as for electricity. Nuclear power stations currently supply around a sixth of the UK’s electricity.
Johnson has previously announced that he intends to phase out fossil fuels from UK power generation by 2035, and has also argued that the country should invest in more nuclear and domestic renewable energy to become more self-sufficient.
The No 10 officials said topics expected to be discussed at the roundtable include how government and industry can work together to remove barriers and move future nuclear projects in the UK faster and at lower cost. Downing Street added that nuclear energy is a “safe, clean and reliable source of energy”.
Last November, the government agreed to invest in a new generation of mini-nuclear reactors, developed by engineering firm Rolls-Royce.
Ministers hope these small modular reactors, or SMRs, will be faster and cheaper to build than traditional large-scale nuclear reactors – like the Hinkley Point C project – which pose considerable construction risks and often face costs and growing delays.
Johnson told Tory members at the party’s Spring Conference in Blackpool this weekend that the government was going to place “big bets on nuclear power”, including backing SMRs and larger projects. However, some environmental experts have expressed concerns about how to safely dispose of nuclear waste after the dismantling of nuclear power plants.
The Labor Party has said it supports building more nuclear sites, and Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves on Sunday called on ministers to “continue investment in new nuclear”, as well as renewables.
Johnson is also scheduled to meet with wind industry executives in the coming days as he seeks to bolster national power sources in all available quarters.