With growing geopolitical competition over the uranium cycle, the UK must take action now to ensure its stability of supply.
Since the end of the Second World War, the UK’s electricity generation and infrastructure has been built around fossil fuels. This system has faced two energy crises: in the 1970s, when the Arab oil-producing countries sought to embargo oil supplies; and the oil price shock of 1990 in response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. In both cases, the UK failed to diversify its fossil fuel supply away from unstable countries. In contrast, France embarked on a large reactor build programme from the 1970s and, as a result, largely decarbonised its energy industry in the process, laying the foundations for its current energy independence.
The full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022 has precipitated a third major energy crisis. This time, however, the nature of the crisis is different. Russia’s efforts to deploy energy as a weapon are taking place as the international community is aiming to replace fossil fuels as the primary source of power generation to counter climate change. Currently, 60% of worldwide electricity production is derived from fossil fuels. With the shift to renewable supplies, electricity demand is forecast to double by 2050. Thus, not only are fossil fuels being replaced with the generation of electricity, but electricity is becoming one of our primary energy sources. To achieve these goals, nuclear power represents the only affordable, reliable, sustainable and green solution, but a UK shift to nuclear power faces major challenges.