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Nuclear power plants needed for the UK to meet carbon obligations

A new generation of nuclear power plants are needed to help the UK meet its climate obligation targets, the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) has said during its annual conference.

The NIA, which represents UK companies in the sector, says the UK needs a “proven, dependable source” of low-carbon electricity generation alongside growth in “weather-dependent” solar and wind power.

It argues that without nuclear in the energy mix, the UK risks dependence on gas-fired power stations for many years to come.

Last month, both the Labour and Conservative Parties committed to new nuclear power as part of their election manifestos.

Hinkley Point, the only new power station currently under construction in the UK, has already gone over budget by £3bn and is not expected to being producing electricity until 2025. Furthermore, the cost per megawatt hour is expected to be significantly higher than other forms of energy production.

A 2016 report found that building more wind farms and gas-fired power stations, combined with measures to manage demand, could save £1bn a year and still meet climate targets.

Three out of four of 2,000 adults surveyed to coincide with the conference said they want the UK Government to take more action to reduce CO2 emissions.

However, a YouGov poll in August showed mixed public support for nuclear energy. While 33 per cent of people said they were favourable towards it, 49 per cent were opposed, while 18 per cent didn’t know.

Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the NIA, said: “We have to grow the industry’s contribution to a low-carbon economy. This is a proven, dependable technology with lower lifecycle CO2 emissions than solar power and the same as offshore wind. It is also an important economic engine for the UK, creating high-quality direct and indirect employment for around 155,000 people.

“Right now, nuclear provides 20 per cent of all the UK’s electricity, but all but one of our existing fleet will close over the next decade and power demand will only increase with a shift to electric heating and vehicles.”

Dr Doug Parr, chief scientist for Greenpeace UK, said: “The government has bent over backwards for the nuclear industry, promising them twice as much money for the power they generate as the latest renewable plants get.

But it’s not enough. Nuclear’s sums don’t add up, they have been outcompeted and their self-serving arguments in this statement are becoming as obsolete as their technology.

The nuclear industry’s claim to unique dependability is being steadily eroded as storage and smart grids develop and plummet in cost. The entire developed world is turning its collective back on nuclear because it’s too slow, too expensive, too dangerous and genuinely unnecessary.”

 

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