Company behind British Gas backs out of nuclear rebuild programme

Centrica, the owner of British Gas has withdrawn from the UK’s nuclear re-build project. The company cited rapidly expanding costs, coupled with major delays to the programme as the reason behind its decision.

What is the nuclear regeneration programme?

The nuclear re-build is part of the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s plan to ‘make the UK a leading global destination for investment in new nuclear’.

This statement comes despite the fact that the cost of decommissioning one site in Sellafield, Cumbria, has now reached nearly £70 billion.

Centrica was offered a 20% stake in four new nuclear reactors due to be built across the UK. This was in partnership with EDF Energy, a French energy supplier which already runs eight UK based nuclear power plants. Centrica pulled out as their investment reached the agreed £1 billion cap, with even greater costs expected as the project progresses. Another reason for delays in the plans for the nuclear rebuild project is the serious safety concerns raised following the incident at the Fukushima reactor in 2011.

In light of Centrica’s withdrawal from the regeneration programme, the government will seek new investment, but this is now likely to come from overseas, rather than a UK company.

What this means for you?

Nuclear energy has become a hot topic in the past few years. Nuclear disposal costs have escalated, and there are on-going issues with nuclear waste – the problem of radioactive garbage created by power plants is yet to be solved.

Despite this, the government is pressing on with the construction of a new generation of power plants. This is partly an effort to move away from fossil fuels. In many ways, nuclear energy is a cleaner, more efficient power source than gas or oil. Decreasing the national power grid’s dependence on fossil fuels would shelter consumers volatility of fuel prices on the international market.

However, the decommissioning process for nuclear plants is extremely expensive, and takes more than a century to achieve. There are also major concerns over the impact of radioactive waste on the environment. By constructing new nuclear sites, we could be providing a future source of clean, renewable energy. We could also be leaving our planet with a toxic legacy for generations to come.