Former minister says there is a “strong case for doing one for nuclear”

The chairman of New Nuclear Watch Europe has called on the government to consider a sector deal to encourage the UK’s nuclear industry, following the publication of the Clean Growth Strategy.

The strategy, which was published yesterday, contains commitments to develop sector deals for the offshore wind sector and the automotive industry to accelerate the transition to electric vehicles.

Speaking to Utility Week, Tim Yeo said there is a “strong case for doing one for nuclear”.

“If the government thinks these deals are a good idea for offshore wind, then they should certainly contemplate whether the nuclear industry needs something similar,” he told Utility Week.

“One of the challenges we will face is how we ensure we have the right skills, so the labour market can be deployed as effectively as possible.

“There’s a whole new generation of workers who should be looking forward to serious careers over the next two decades in a nuclear new build programme,” said Yeo.

He added he was disappointed the strategy did not mention the idea of using government loans to help the nuclear sector.

“It’s possible to demonstrate that if the government was willing to make a loan available during the construction period for a new nuclear plant, the lower cost would contribute to a lower cost of electricity.

“It would have been encouraging to see an acknowledgement of that and perhaps a commitment to exploring it,” he added.

“We’ve always argued there should not be a permanent loan to developers, but it could be over the five or seven-year period of construction.

“As soon as the plant is operational, the loan would be repaid. We will certainly continue to push for this and it would have been nice if it had been included in the strategy.”

Yeo added he also was a “bit disappointed” that there was not more on onshore wind in the strategy.

“I was up at the [Conservative party] conference last week and there were encouraging signs that the door was opening a bit on onshore wind, provided the local community was happy.

“Clearly, if we were willing to develop it a bit, I think costs could come down and I think onshore wind could become very cost competitive. Given that they singled out offshore wind, they could have mentioned onshore wind. as well.”

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