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Nuclear

At present nuclear power provides a steady base load of about 20% of the UK's electricity.

FES 2021 shows a small increase in nuclear capapcity in some scenarios compared to FES 2020 in the longer term, although there is generally a small decrease in generation.

Background

From 1956 onwards the UK built 19 new power stations, and over that time nuclear sources became very significant in UK electricity generation. However, all but one of those power stations will have ceased operation by 2030.

Although various proposals to build nuclear power stations have been considered - or are being considered - only one is actually in the process of being built. That one is Hinckley Point C.

Zero carbon

The process of nuclear fission is essentially carbon-free.

The National Grid acknowledge the need for both nuclear power and offshore wind to help meet decarbonisation targets.

Nuclear waste

The major problem associated with nuclear power is the disposal of radioactive nuclear waste. No permanent and effective means of nuclear waste disposal has yet been found, and most UK nuclear waste is stored at Sellafield in Cumbria.

Another consequence of radioactivity is that the decommissioning of a nuclear power station is a costly and time-consuming process.

Costs

At face value nuclear power is now a relatively expensive way of generating electricity. However, it should be remembered that the theoretically cheaper intermittent options such as wind also require additional costs - notably storage - to provide consistent power.

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(Graph based on National Grid 2021 data.)


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