There has always been an interesting relationship between the UK and nuclear power. Though with the looming 2050 deadline, nuclear energy is being considered as a viable solution to fossil fuels in the UK. Late into the 1990’s, 19 nuclear power stations provided a quarter of the nation’s electricity. Currently the UK receives 21% of its energy from nuclear power. Compare this to the USA (19%) and we’re ahead but compared to France (79%) we’re severely behind.
So, why are we ahead compared to other countries and behind in others?
Well the UK had an interest in developing nuclear power but plans and schemes were hit with delays, both recently and in the past. In 2008, the government white paper for nuclear power breathed new life into nuclear energy in the UK and set out a bright future for this low carbon energy source. It was to create jobs for the more remote parts of the UK and help reduce carbon emissions! It is also seemed relatively cheap in terms of cost in comparison to renewable energy in 2008. Once the government announced their renewed interest European utility consortiums showed interest in building these new power stations.
But, as you may know, the global financial crisis in 2008 lead to a recession in the UK. This halted all progress as escalating costs mounted up and construction risks loomed over projects. The delays in these processes caused many utilities to leave the process.
The aftermath of the financial crisis meant that the first project, Hinkley Point c, only reached financial close in 2016. That’s a whole 8 years after the government passed the white paper.
Why hasn’t the UK’s nuclear plan been very successful?
In 2013, the Nuclear Industrial Strategy paper planned the outline of 16GW of nuclear energy for domestic homes. This plan was to build 12 new reactors at five locations around the UK. They included Hinkley Point, Sizewell, Moorside, Wylfa and Oldbury. At some point or another all of these sites have had delays, cancellations or escalated costs. For example, the Moorside reactor was scrapped due to escalating costs causing Toshiba to back out. Then in January 2019 Hitachi was the second major firm to leave their plans to build a nuclear plant, this time at Oldbury and Wylfa.
So, what were we missing out with these scrapped power plants? Well, all together, the three abandoned plants would’ve supplied 15% of the UK’s demand for electricity. Potentially bumping up the figure to 36% for nuclear energy production in the UK!
What about the other plants? Despite these three projects being let go, Hinkley Point C and Sizewell are actually making some good progress. Hinkley Point C will even deliver 7% of the UK’s electricity demand for 60 years!
What can we expect for the future of nuclear power in the UK?
Even though there have been numerous setbacks, the government are still actively planning to increase nuclear capacity. They originally wanted to have reached their goal of 16GW of nuclear capacity by 2030. Though currently the new projection is 12GW of nuclear capacity by 2035, reflected by the recent setbacks.
So, the future is hopeful for nuclear power in the UK, though it is not all too certain.
Thank you for your time, we hope you found this post informative! Enjoy your day!
The information in this article comes from the BBC Energy Brief