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  • Writer's pictureSimon Mosdal

Looking at the UK’s energy sources: nuclear power

Nuclear power plays a significant role in the UK's energy mix, generating around 15% of the country's electricity. 

Nuclear power plants use nuclear fission, the process of splitting atoms of uranium to release enormous amounts of energy. This heat is then used to create steam, which drives turbines and generates electricity.  The UK's current fleet of nuclear reactors are primarily advanced gas-cooled reactors (AGRs).

Nuclear power offers several advantages. It's a low-carbon source of energy, producing minimal greenhouse gas emissions during operation. Additionally, nuclear power plants are reliable, providing a consistent baseload of electricity regardless of weather conditions.

However, nuclear power also comes with challenges. Concerns surround the safety of nuclear facilities, with accidents like Chornobyl raising public anxieties. Nuclear waste disposal remains a complex issue, as radioactive materials require safe storage for thousands of years. The high upfront costs of building and decommissioning nuclear plants are another significant hurdle.

Additionally, the UK's current fleet of nuclear reactors is ageing, with most scheduled to retire by the end of this decade. However, the government has recently committed to significant investment in new nuclear power plants, recognising its important role in achieving net zero goals.

Whilst the future of nuclear power in the UK remains somewhat uncertain, technological advancements could address some of the challenges. Public acceptance and cost-effectiveness will be crucial factors in determining its role in the UK's energy mix.

Pros of nuclear power:

  • Low-carbon energy source.

  • Reliable and predictable electricity generation.

  • High energy density (produces a lot of electricity from a small amount of fuel).

Cons of nuclear power:

  • Safety concerns related to accidents and radioactive materials.

  • Complex and expensive waste disposal process.

  • High upfront construction and decommissioning costs.

  • Public perception and concerns about nuclear proliferation.

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The UK Zero logo beside a phone with the UK Zero home screen showing the UK's energy mix on the 11th May 2023.


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