Britain presses nuclear power as it tries to end dependence on Russia

The British government on Thursday unveiled its plan to increase the country’s energy independence as European countries try to quickly reduce energy imports from Russia due to the war in Ukraine.

A cornerstone of Britain’s plan is to increase nuclear capacity, with goals to deliver up to eight reactors this decade. Under the Energy Security Plan, the country will aim to increase its capacity to 24 gigawatts of nuclear power by 2050, or a quarter of its estimated electricity demand. There will also be more oil and gas projects in the North Sea and expansion in wind and offshore solar power. The government has said it wants to wean Britain off expensive fossil fuels.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement that the plan would “reduce our dependence on energy sources that are exposed to volatile international prices that we cannot control.”

Last month, Britain announced that it would gradually stop importing Russian oil by the end of the year. Russian gas supplies were not affected. But wholesale prices for natural gas and, to a lesser extent, oil, rose even before Russia invaded Ukraine, hampering industrial production and squeezing household budgets. In Britain, energy bills jumped 54 per cent this month for most households and were expected to rise again in October because energy prices remain volatile.

But the government’s plan was met with quick criticism. Industry groups and activists said the energy security strategy failed to address the problems families now faced with rising energy costs because it did not include a plan Increased energy efficiency – particularly through housing insulation – or new targets for onshore winds.

This was a “perfect opportunity to create a decade-long plan to insulate people from volatile energy prices,” Adam Schurrer, CEO of National Energy Action, a fuel poverty charity, said in a statement. “She is silent on this crucial issue.”

The government’s plan includes an incentive to speed up the manufacture and use of heat pumps as an alternative to domestic gas boilers, with a value of up to 30 million pounds, or 39 million dollars.

Others have decried the plan to expand oil and gas projects in the North Sea, even as Britain sets ambitious climate change targets enshrined in law. The government has said it will subsidize domestic oil and gas “in the near term”, as it hopes to make 95 percent of electricity “low carbon” by 2030.

The government’s plan is to increase offshore wind capacity fivefold by 2030 with urgent planning permits. But the targets of the wild wind have eased amid internal opposition in the ruling Conservative Party. The government said it would consult on developing partnerships with a limited number of communities that were willing to own wind turbines. The plan also included a goal of increasing low-carbon hydrogen production capacity to 10 gigawatts by the end of the decade as part of Britain’s efforts to reduce emissions.

“Replacing gas power with more nuclear is low carbon, but nuclear power is not renewable and it is not cheap,” Darren Jones, opposition Labor MP and chair of the parliamentary committee that oversees energy policy, said in a statement. . “It is disappointing that the government failed to seize the full opportunity of wind and solar energy again.”

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