Nevertheless, even at this late hour it’s still not too late to switch back to a more sensible course of action – and a nuclear policy that would protect British innovation, jobs, skills and exports.
Britain still has nuclear expertise and the ability to develop a cheaper, simpler, better home-grown technology to produce carbon-free baseload energy.
Small Modular Reactors would build on the expertise of UK engineering companies like Rolls Royce, which has been quietly building and maintaining small nuclear reactors for the Royal Navy’s submarine fleet for decades.
Unlike EDF and CGN’s giant EPR and Hualong One reactors – which are highly complex standalone industrial projects which take years to build in situ – SMRs can be built on a factory production line to a standardised design and towed into position on smaller and more compact sites.
They could be manufactured at scale for export, helping create UK jobs while embracing a colossal industrial opportunity to help other countries cut carbon emissions and tackle climate change.
And in the UK they could be built on some of the existing, brownfield nuclear sites still controlled by the UK government that are owned by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), the body responsible for cleaning up waste and retired reactors that are no longer in use. EDF owns most of the others through its control of British Energy.
This week, the government pledged a £40m investment to develop small UK reactors. It’s a promising start but far more could be done to scale it up more quickly and promote it as a better alternative.