UK energy lifeline: EDF and Rolls-Royce set to save the day with huge nuclear project

Boris Johnson takes aim at Labour for lack of nuclear energy

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The Russian invasion of Ukraine over a month ago shined a light on Europe’s dependence on Moscow for its energy needs, and the vulnerabilities that arise from reliance. Even though the UK only gets about 6 percent of its energy from Russian sources, the country is looking to end all imports of Russian oil by the end of the year.

Next week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to release his energy security strategy, which will detail how the UK will avoid global energy market fluctuations and address long-term failures to secure domestic production.

In this strategy, Mr Johnson hinted at increasing support for nuclear energy, with a promise to bring nuclear energy to account for 25 percent of the country’s electricity.

Experts believe that two firms, Rolls-Royce from Britain, and French state-backed EDF are likely to secure major deals after the energy strategy is announced.

Speaking to, Nicholas Drummond, a defence industry analyst said: “It’s by no means guaranteed that EDF will get the deals, it is one of the number of companies considered.

“But they will rate quite highly in terms of being considered because when it comes to running nuclear power stations they know what they’re doing.

“They’re very good at it. This is not an area where we can afford to hire amateurs because the last thing we want is a UK Chernobyl.

“It is right that we ask someone who really understands this technology not only how to understand it, but manage it going forward and ensure that it delivers the energy that we need.“

Mr Drummond said that nuclear energy is essential if the UK plans to generate hydrogen at scale, which is tipped to replace natural in the future.

He added: “It’s absolutely right that we should consider EDF.”

Mr Johnson has previously highlighted the importance of hydrogen as a potential fuel to be used for heavy machinery, lorries and for heating homes.

Rolls-Royce is also tipped a sign a deal with the Government to build Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) that are cheaper and can be built much faster than conventional nuclear reactors.

At the Liaison Committee, Mr Johnson told MPs: “Long term and medium term we have got to be looking at big-ticket nuclear solutions, Sizewell and other projects, but we have also got to be looking at small modular reactors.”

When asked how soon a small modular reactor could be constructed, he said: “I saw a bit of paper last night saying that they think ‘before the end of the decade’ – but they will have to go quicker than that.

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“If we don’t start now, we won’t be fixing the problem.”

Mr Drummond added that Rolls-Royce could even collaborate with EDF on operating the reactors.

He said: “Rolls-Royce is not a power company, it would need to partner with somebody, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t have nuclear power stations managed by EDF.

“You could always take that management away from them when you needed to.

“But Rolls-Royce and EDF have to be the lead contenders [in the energy strategy].”

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