The UK government is considering building as many as 50 new nuclear power plants, official documents have revealed.
According to the Guardian, in a response submitted to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) by one of its own advisory bodies, the department is examining the possibility of installing an upper limit of 75 gigawatts (GW) of nuclear power.
This is far higher than the current programme publically suggested by ministers, which would build 12 reactors to supply 16GW at five newly constructed sites. Seventy-five gigawatts, an upper limit that the submission says is “being examined”, would equate to more than 50 large-scale reactors.
The news comes shortly after the European commission announced it was investigating the UK government’s plans to subsidise the construction and operation of the proposed nuclear power station at Hinkley Point.
The commission are said to be concerned that the government’s deal with EDF, the company that will operate Hinkley C, may be breaking state aid rules and EU competition laws.
Under the proposals, the government has guaranteed EDF a static price for every megawatt hour of electricity produced for 35 years. EU energy commissioner Günther Oettinger said the “35-year feed-in tariffs may be a problem”.
Critics of nuclear power have also disputed claims that subsidised electricity from Hinkley Point C will mean cheaper bills.
Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland said, “This price guarantee is a blank cheque that is likely to cost UK consumers more than £100 billion over the life of any new nuclear reactors. People are already worried about their fuel bills, adding a long-term nuclear subsidy at twice today’s prices is the last thing anyone needs.”
Last week Jim Ratcliffe, the boss of petrochemical company Ineos, said that British manufacturers won’t buy power from the new nuclear plant, as it will be much more expensive than energy imported from elsewhere.