Why nuclear power?
The people who run one of our biggest power stations open up and explain why nuclear power is the future.
The energy challenge
The UK’s electricity demands are currently met by a diverse energy mix – power generated in a number of ways: nuclear; fossil fuels like coal, gas and oil; and renewables like wind, solar and hydro. But there is a huge challenge ahead.
The UK urgently requires new investment in energy infrastructure to replace old and polluting sources of electricity generation, and ensure we a have sufficient capacity in the mid-2020s. In addition, the UK has a legally binding emissions reduction target of 80% by 2050. So as much new electricity generation capacity as possible needs to be low carbon in order to help fight climate change.
A future energy mix with a significant amount of low carbon nuclear generation alongside gas and renewables, will help deliver a secure low-carbon energy system at an affordable price, with flexibility to incorporate future technologies.
What’s the solution?
Each source has its strengths and weaknesses. Fossil fuels, like gas and coal, are the biggest cause of CO2 emissions. So increasing electricity generation with these isn’t a long-term option. Renewable sources are low carbon but unpredictable and depend on specific climatic conditions.
Nuclear power generation depends on a natural resource that is abundant in many places around the world. It has low ongoing running costs, produces electricity reliably and is very low-carbon. But the stations require big upfront investment to build and they produce radioactive material, which has to be safely managed. EDF Energy believes the positives far outweigh the negatives, and that nuclear power is a key part of the mix.
Nuclear can meet our country’s demands
The raw material used to create fuel for nuclear power stations is uranium, most of which comes from stable, dependable regions around the world. It’s this reliability and abundance that makes nuclear power a scalable, long-term solution to our increasing low carbon electricity demands.
Yet however much uranium there is, if there aren’t enough stations to process it, it will be a wasted resource. The eight nuclear power stations in the UK have a working life of between forty and sixty years, after which they’re decommissioned. Of the UK’s ten stations, nine are due to close by 2030. These need to be replaced if demand is to be met.
The UK’s 8 nuclear power stations produce enough electricity to power 50% of the country’s homes.
Building the future
Planning new stations, and the safe management of the radioactive waste they produce, takes many years. All suitable sites need to be selected with sensitivity, careful consideration and with the support of nearby communities.
EDF Energy is building a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point C, the first of a fleet of new nuclear plants expected in Britain in the coming years. These will go a long way towards securing the UK’s future energy supply.
Low carbon electricity
We’re all aware of the threat that climate change poses to our planet. The UK has a legally binding emissions reduction target of 80% by 2050. The energy sector has a key role to play. Meeting our targets depends on the UK moving to a lower carbon electricity mix and also using low carbon electricity to play a greater role in transport and heating. We therefore need to increase the amount of electricity produced from low-carbon sources.
Wind, solar, hydro and nuclear power generation produce close-to-zero carbon dioxide emissions. Nuclear power has one of the smallest carbon footprints of any energy source. In fact, most of the CO2 produced is done during the construction of the stations.
Small but powerful
The natural element used to create nuclear energy - uranium - is powerful stuff. A single uranium fuel pellet, which is about the size of a peanut, can produce as much energy as 800kg of coal.
Safety first and foremost
We know safety is your number one concern. It’s ours too. The UK nuclear industry has an excellent safety record going back more than 50 years, thanks in no small part to some of the toughest regulations in the world.
Safety is our overriding priority. Our stations are built to the highest and most exacting standards, and to withstand earthquakes, floods, fires and external impacts. We also layer up our safety procedures so that no one system is solely responsible for safe shutdown, should we need to.
We also feel a great responsibility to those who live and work in and around our sites. So we regularly and rigorously test our systems and processes, under the watchful eye of independent monitors, to make sure that everything is in perfect working order.
A brighter future
Our nuclear power stations currently support thousands of high quality jobs. Thousands of people will work on the building of our new sites, from the early planning and design stages through to the finishing touches inside the stations. And operating our eight stations around the clock takes the dedication and hard work of more than 6,600 people. This has a huge, positive impact on the local communities we are part of.
We don’t just want to financially support the communities that we’re part of. We like to help create thriving and prosperous environments that everyone can benefit from, in a number of ways.
We’ve opened nature reserves near our stations that are free to visit, sponsored local festivals that provide education to local schoolchildren and encourage all our employees to spend two working days a year volunteering in the local community.
A critical turning point
The UK is facing a big energy challenge. Even with greater focus on energy efficiency we face an energy gap with the imminent closure of ageing power stations and the need to reduce a fossil-fueled power generation. A long-term, reliable, dependable and cost-effective solution needs to be found.
EDF Energy believes nuclear power generation is an important part of how we can fill this gap.