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Mean on Monday

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By Ian Mean

Business West Gloucestershire director & vice-chair GFirstLEP

It seems hardly believable that the cost of building our flagship nuclear plant-Hinkley Point C in Somerset-has now spiralled to as much as £46 billion.

And it also means that the plant may  not be delivering energy until 2029 at the earliest.

From a starting point of around £24 billion in 2016 when contracts were signed to EDF’s latest figure of £46 billion is not a good look for the nuclear energy industry in the UK.

These soaring costs will be shouldered by French owned EDF-not the British taxpayer.

But it is easy, of course, to make political capital of these spiralling costs on what is now Europe’s largest building site.

Brexit, global supply chain problems and the Russia/Ukraine conflict have not helped the build.

However, I don’t think I am alone in thinking this is a travesty that 20 years on since agreeing to  build Hinkley C, this is still the only nuclear plant we are currently building in the UK.

If we are to decarbonise our economy by 2050, nuclear must be part of that mix but I am afraid that successive governments have failed to get a grip on it.

Energy, and the rising cost of energy, has been hitting business hard but, hitherto, nuclear has not been seen a political vote winner.

Now, at long last, government appears to have woken up to the serious reality of delivering energy in a very disturbed world.

For the first time in 70 years, the government is now committed to a nuclear plan and we  have a roadmap for the delivery of 24 gigawatts(Gw) of  new nuclear power in the next few decades.

This pledge is the equivalent to six power stations the size of Hinkley C.

The news this week of the impending sale of the Gloucestershire Science  and Technology Park at Berkeley by South Gloucestershire and Stroud College(SGS), is in my view ,very good news for the nuclear roadmap and our Gloucestershire economy.

I think it is significant that one of the partners with the preferred bidder for the SGS land is Rolls Royce who are producing the new mini nuclear reactors or SMRs.

And it’s worth noting that Rolls Royce SMRs-built in factories-are promising a price tag of around £2 billion per power plant.

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