Johnson to ‘bet big’ on nuclear power despite Sunak’s reservations | Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson wants his promised energy security strategy to ‘bet big’ on nuclear despite Rishi Sunak’s reservations – but he has cooled off on more onshore wind in England amid a Tory backlash.
The Prime Minister is determined to press ahead with his plans to build eight new nuclear power stations, even as the Chancellor worries about the cost, which is expected to reach more than £13billion.
It is understood that the energy strategy, which is expected to be announced next week, will likely contain targets for nuclear but will not put a figure on the cost.
Johnson will also commit to a “stretched” target on offshore wind, according to a Whitehall source. But he is now said to be less enthusiastic about the possibilities of onshore wind in England, believing Scotland offers a better landscape for new turbines.
An ally of the Prime Minister said he would “not really [be] push for onshore wind in England”, although it is “in the strategy as an option where people want it, which realistically means in Scotland”.
Johnson and Sunak reportedly discussed the new strategy this week, which was commissioned to ensure security of supply amid soaring gas prices fueled by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The document was delayed due to a row over the scale of its nuclear ambitions, but is now expected to be released late next week.
Sunak will be in London for the strategy launch. However, he is said to be vacationing in California, where he has a second home, at some point during recess, despite growing pressure over a lack of measures to help lower the cost of living and energy bills in the declaration of spring.
The Treasury is understood to be worried about the expansion of nuclear power in the UK, with the cost of new plants set to be loaded onto people’s energy bills under the new funding scheme. The government is also said to be likely to take minority stakes in new projects and has set aside around £1.7billion to get one factory, Sizewell C, able to go ahead.
But with renewed interest in weaning the UK off gas, Johnson insists on the need to push ahead with new plants, with a projected target of around 16GW of medium nuclear power term and closer to 30 GW in the longer term. According to the government’s own impact assessment, it takes an average of 13 to 17 years from the initial investment to the production of electricity by a new nuclear power plant.
On onshore wind, No 10 allies had described Johnson as “open-minded” but “passionate about offshore”. He appears to have cooled off on the prospect of greater onshore winds, as well as the potential for fracking in England, as Tory MPs resist developments in their constituencies.
The idea of giving communities reductions on their energy bills if they accept onshore developments in their areas has been mooted, meaning the prospect of new developments is ‘not impossible’, but still difficult , sources said.
However, Johnson issued mixed messages about onshore wind after telling a group of industry leaders this week that he was “horrified” by the length of the planning process. He was told that a wind turbine can be installed in a day, but planning permission can take a decade.
Officials expect No 10 to approve an Energy Bill to set targets and a strategy for energy security, to be announced in the Queen’s Speech in May.
The UK has struggled to build new nuclear power plants in recent decades, with Japanese conglomerate Hitachi withdrawing plans in 2020 to build a new reactor at Wylfa, North Wales, and a decision against allowing Chinese investment in Sizewell C on the Suffolk coast. .