BORIS Johnson has used the Russian invasion of Ukraine as an “excuse” in order to push the UK towards more nuclear power, a leading energy expert has said.

Dr Paul Dorfman, an associate fellow at the University of Sussex’s Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) and chair of the Nuclear Consulting Group, told The National the Prime Minister had “become incredibly gung-ho” about nuclear since Putin’s invasion.

Dorfman said Johnson was looking to more than double nuclear output beyond what had initially been envisaged, from around 8-10 gigawatts (GW) to 25GW.

“Johnson has always been pro-nuclear. He’s just become incredibly gung-ho now,” Dorfman said.

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“He’s ramped up his position on nuclear, and at the same time he’s seeking to lower any environmental checks on building new nuclear.

“And yes, he has used the Russian invasion of Ukraine as an excuse to do that. Already he has taken the political initiative to frame his argument in that way.”

The Telegraph reported on Tuesday that Tory ministers were looking at overhauling planning laws to make it harder for locals to object to the construction of new nuclear sites as part of Johnson’s push to build more power stations.

Dorfman, who is also a member of the Irish Government’s Environment Protection Agency (EPA), went on: “New nuclear is very slow. It takes about 15 years from planning to construction, 15 years. So it cannot help with the current energy crisis.”

Dorfman said the timescale involved in new nuclear plants showed Johnson had “used what’s going on” in Ukraine to justify expanding in the UK without basis.

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He further warned that new nuclear stations in the UK would need to be built near the sea due to the need for huge amounts of water to cool the reactors, and that they would be vulnerable to climate change impacts.

“By the time they are constructed they will be beginning to be significantly impacted by climate change,” he said.

“UK infrastructure will be subject to storm surges, flooding. Nuclear needs to be beside the sea, or large bodies of water or rivers, but in the UK it’s beside the sea, and we know what will happen. The sea really will start to impact, the only question is when.”

Instead, the energy expert said the ongoing "renewables revolution" held the solution.

Asked about the UK Government’s plans to green-light more drilling in the North Sea in order to cut its reliance on Russian fuel, Dorfman said the topic was “hugely problematic”.

The National: Oil rig anchored in the Cromarty Firth, Invergordon Picture: JANE BARLOW/PA

He went on: “There are questions about Europe and the UK getting through this period without Russian fuel. I personally don’t understand [Johnson’s] rush for more North Sea oil and gas as I don’t believe the UK imports all that much [from Russia].”

Johnson has previously said that only about three per cent of the UK’s gas comes from Russia, while Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said Russian oil accounts for about eight per cent of the UK’s usage.

Dorfman said that in order to wean itself off these Russian hydrocarbons, the UK needed to be looking at “demand-side management” and not drilling for more in its own territory.

Asked if this meant switching lights off when out of the room or wearing jumpers, the professor said it should instead take the form of “solid” government investment in air source heat pumps and other technologies which would allow people to cut their oil and gas usage.

He said that the market had rejected nuclear, and so the only way forward for the power was “vast, significant public subsidy”, further arguing that this subsidy would be better spent elsewhere.

A UK Government spokesperson said: “As the Prime Minister has said, nuclear will be a key part of our upcoming energy security strategy – along with renewable energy and domestic gas.

“We are committed to scaling up our nuclear electricity generation capacity, and building more nuclear power here in the UK, as seen through the construction of Hinkley Point C – the first new nuclear power station in a generation.

“This plays a crucial part in this Government’s determination to increase our energy independence, move away from Russian gas in light of President Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine and ultimately bring down costs for consumers.”