Evidence from around globe shows there is “significant” potential to cut new-build nuclear costs in the UK by learning from the experiences of other countries, according to the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI).

In a new report the ETI said, although recent nuclear projects in North America and Europe have been beset by delays and cost overruns, plants built elsewhere in the world have demonstrated that nuclear energy can be “highly cost competitive”.

The report identifies 35 opportunities to drive down costs, spread across eight key categories from project governance and development to policy and regulation. They include building multiple units at a single site and providing government support for financing.

“Through an evidence-based study of historic, contemporary and future nuclear power projects, research shows that there are a small number of understandable factors that drive the cost of nuclear plants,” the ETI said in a statement.

“The analysis also highlights that there are several consistent characteristics shared amongst low cost plants and different common characteristics shared across high cost power plants.

“If understood and addressed, they can reduce the cost of new nuclear projects.”

The report was produced as part of the ETI’s nuclear cost drivers project and is a summary of a fuller report which is due to be released later this year.

It says creating certainty over budgets and scheduling is essential to lowering costs: “In doing so, there is less project risk and higher confidence in successful project delivery, which benefits all stakeholders, including the public and the project developer.

“Reducing risk lowers overall construction financing costs, both in terms of leading to a shorter construction period, but also a lowering in the risk premium.”

Cost-cutting opportunities

Source: Energy Technologies Institute

ETI strategy manager Mike Middleton said: “As long as nuclear power is cost competitive within the overall energy mix, it has the potential to play a significant role in the UK’s transition to a low carbon economy. The challenge is to realise cost reductions across a sequence of new nuclear power reactors, which can meet the expectations of government, investors and consumers.

“Unlike other low-carbon technologies such as offshore wind and carbon capture and storage, fleet deployment itself does not necessarily generate cost reduction for nuclear power plant projects. However, such cost reductions cannot be materialised without deployment of a new nuclear fleet.

“There is evidence of previous UK expertise in the cost-effective delivery of nuclear power projects, but this ‘know how’ must be regenerated through an integrated programme and applied to delivering a fleet of new nuclear projects.”

The report was welcomed by the Nuclear Industry Association, whose head of policy, Peter Haslam, said: “This evidence led report shows new nuclear need not be expensive, and identifies key areas of nuclear plant design, construction and operation that could deliver significant cost reductions, through joint action by all parties.

“The nuclear industry is committed to reducing the costs to the consumer of low carbon electricity form nuclear new build and is working with government through the nuclear sector deal to deliver this.”

EDF Energy chief executive Simone Rossi has previously claimed the cost of its proposed Sizewell C nuclear plant could be lowered by a fifth when compared to Hinkley Point C by “copying and pasting” the design.

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