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expert reaction to Science, Innovation and Technology Committee report on ‘Delivering nuclear power’

The Science, Innovation and Technology Committee have published a report calling on the government to develop and publish a Nuclear Strategic Plan to deliver new nuclear.


Will Davis, Chair of the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s (IET) Nuclear Committee, said:

“This report is welcomed and combines a comprehensive analysis of the current UK Government nuclear power strategy – with specific recommendations for the actions needed to ensure that the objective of 24GW nuclear will be achieved by 2050. The time for strategies is past – as the report says throughout, the need now is for detailed plans to which Government, industry, regulators, academia and, most important of all, investors agree to work together.

“To achieve any future new nuclear capacity safely, to budget and to schedule requires realistic plans, and robust leadership, giving people confidence in the commitment from Government. The cold hard reality of delivering new nuclear plants on a decadal timeframe requires detailed planning and commitments on which industry can depend.

“There are many reasons why our industry needs this clarity – not only to unlock funding but also to provide market signals to address other barriers, such as supply chain capacity and the underlying skills shortage in the nuclear sector – we need many more skilled engineers and technicians from all disciplines, and other sectors, to deliver the strategy, so the establishment of the Nuclear Skills Task Force, as well GB Nuclear is key.

“Transforming the energy system – including nuclear – so that it is fit for purpose in delivering net zero targets, requires an overall strategic plan for the whole energy sector, including attention to cross cutting issues such as planning and permitting, and the creation of the right governance to ensure we can balance the challenges of costs of energy, resilience and climate change.

“The IET, as the largest multi-disciplinary professional engineering institution in the UK is in a good position to assist GB Nuclear and the Nuclear Skills Task Force to achieve this.” 


Prof Chris Grovenor, Materials Department, Oxford University, said: 

“The House of Commons Science, Innovation and Technology Committee report on delivering nuclear power contains some important recommendations on how the ambitious plans for 24 GW of nuclear electricity can be delivered to the grid in the next decade. It is good to see emphasis on the need for a genuine delivery strategy, rather than targets that are not much more than a wish list; and for a long term and, most importantly, realistic resourcing plan not driven by the political cycle. All of these are critical requirements for a technology development and manufacturing cycle that is much longer than 5 years.  There are also valuable recommendations on defining the remit and budget of Great Britain Nuclear, and on the critical need to continue to support training across the sector.   Additional points worth making are that the headline figure in the report of £385m of public money committed to the whole nuclear sector since 2020 looks remarkably unambitious when compared to a similar amount recently committed to a single Gigafactory in Somerset, and that even in the past few months new stop-start decisions on research and development funding for UK programmes on small modular and high temperature reactors have caused considerable damage to the morale of those committed to a nuclear future in the UK.  The sector needs clarity on a 15 -20 year funding cycle to deliver what the government is demanding, and that the UK needs for energy security.”


Prof James Marrow, James Martin Professor in Energy Materials, Oxford University, said:

“This is a highly timely report.  The aim to replace and extend the aging nuclear energy capacity in the UK is ambitious and worthwhile. However, if nuclear energy is to have a long term future in the UK, it is essential for there to be a realistic strategy that accepts what the UK nuclear sector can do from its current state.  Skills creation at all levels is critical, whether we develop an indigenous nuclear technology or act as an intelligent customer using international technologies.”


Prof Claire Corkhill, Professor of Mineralogy and Radioactive Waste Management at the University of Bristol, said:

“Importantly, the report reaffirms the need to identify a site for the permanent geological disposal of radioactive waste, which has both a suitable geology and willing community. While plans to do so are progressing at a fast pace, we must continue to undertake the necessary Research and Development to provide confidence in the safety of such a disposal facility. For example, once a site has been selected, a detailed understanding of how radioactive waste interacts with local groundwater is essential.

“It is very positive that the Committee has recognised the imperative to include in the decision-making process for new nuclear technologies an assessment of the implications for long-term radioactive waste management. Encouraging the nuclear industry to consider the circular economy – nuclear decommissioning, radioactive waste management and disposal – in the design stage is a key focus of current research at the University of Bristol. This has not always been the case in the past, which is why the UK taxpayer is now footing the bill for cleaning up 70 years’ worth of radioactive waste, at a cost of several billions of pounds per year. Our research in this area is set to support a revolutionary change in sustainable energy generation.”


Dr Fiona Rayment, Chief Science and Technology Officer at National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL), said:

“It’s time to get started without delay – the consequences of dismissing nuclear power will inhibit our reliable, affordable, sustainable future. Rapidly progressing large, small and advanced nuclear reactors will establish the UK’s future energy mix beyond electricity, with pioneering research and development propelling us forward.

“NNL welcomes the government’s financing of new nuclear and the announcement of Great British Nuclear. There is a real opportunity here to create a strategic plan with stable, actionable policies and commitments, spanning across several parliamentary periods which will ensure future nuclear capability, including skills at pace. Nuclear energy must be treated on a level playing field with other green technologies and being part of the Green Taxonomy will be a key part of this, the consultation can’t come soon enough to progress.”


Prof Adrian Bull, BNFL Chair in Nuclear Energy and Society at the Dalton Nuclear Institute, University of Manchester, said:

“This is a very well written report – timely and insightful. I congratulate the Committee on getting to grips with a complex subject and distilling important recommendations from a wealth of expert evidence. In many respects it echoes the messages from the Dalton Nuclear Institute’s recent work on the “Role of Government” in delivering nuclear power in Britain.

“The section heading “Targets are not a Strategy” captures the frustration that I know many feel – not just about nuclear, but about the Government’s plans (or lack of) to meet their own Net Zero commitment. I personally think those five words should be posted on the wall of every meeting room in Whitehall!

“I fully support the core recommendation of this work – that Government should produce a Nuclear Strategic Plan, within this Parliament, to set the way forward and give clear direction to Great British Nuclear and other bodies on how to proceed towards the 2050 target of 24GW of nuclear energy including greater clarity on the desired mix of nuclear technologies and on applications of nuclear power other than electricity generation . That plan would give clarity and confidence to businesses in the sector and to the thousands of new recruits needed to support delivery of such an ambitious programme. So a key early element should be some strategic intervention on nuclear skills. Unless a clear and comprehensive plan is produced soon, we’re sure to fail.”


Prof Tom Scott, School of Physics, University of Bristol, said:

“We thoroughly support the inquiry’s core recommendation for the Government to develop and publish a clear Nuclear Strategic Plan that is jointly owned by all the relevant parties and is supported by underlying policies which go beyond the lifetime of any single administration.

“Nuclear is a long-term proposition for the UK that needs sustained support and investment. Governmental decisions on nuclear have historically been delayed or deferred, from one administration to the next.

“Given the increasingly acute effects of climate change that we’re witnessing, we have to stop politically motivated deferrals and make some important decisions, and quickly. We need a clear and detailed plan as soon as possible, which is strongly backed by parliament and clearly signals to industry what is required in terms of necessary skills and technology solutions.”


Tony Roulstone, Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge, said:

“As the Science and technology Committee points out, GB Nuclear is seeking to fill the void to the nuclear target of 24 GW, with a plan. Success for nuclear power depends on two key elements: reducing construction costs and attract funding. Other countries have demonstrated the essential elements of a plan that works: building many standard reactors in sequence; using modern modular production and construction practices; and delivering through a stable production system, incentivised for continuous improvement.

“To restart the industry, the government will need to share in funding by means of equity and revenue support (through CFD or RAB). In due course, improved certainty of construction cost and schedule would attract private funding to nuclear power – at least for SMR designs, based on proven technology such RR-SMR or GE-Hitachi BWRX-300.

“The difference between this strategy for success and the past piecemeal approach to nuclear, is like the difference between chalk and cheese.

“GB Nuclear has an important task because of nuclear’s potential contribution to net-zero. It is also a very challenging because of weak state of sector, resulting from 25 years of neglect and underinvestment.”



Declared interests

Claire Corkhill:  

  • “I gave evidence, in person in Westminster, and also in writing, on behalf of the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management, to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee in December 2022.
  • This evidence has been directly quoted in the report and was used to formulate the recommendations of the final report on “Delivering Nuclear Power.”
  • The Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) is an independent advisory committee, sponsored by HM Government’s Department of Energy Security and Net Zero, who provide advice and scrutiny of radioactive waste management and disposal to the government (think SAGE, but less important!). I have been a member of this committee since 2019.
  • I advise the UK government (DESNZ, CoRWM; HM Treasury, Energy Working Group)
  • My research is partly funded by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, Nuclear Waste Services and Sellafield Ltd.
  • I co-lead the Nuclear Waste Services Research Support Office, leading an academic-facing network for radioactive waste disposal research
  • My husband works for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority”

Tony Roulstone: “formerly MD of RR Nuclear.”

Adrian Bull: “none to declare.”

Chris Grovenor: “I am the chair of the National Nuclear User Facilities project Management Group overseeing the delivery of an £82m project on new nuclear infrastructure funded by BEIS in 2017.”

Will Davis: “no conflicts.”

For all other experts, no reply to our request for DOIs was received.

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