UK report suggests up to 40% nuclear

7 August 2009

Britain needs to be “more ambitious” and should aim for nuclear to have a 35-40% share of the energy mix after 2030, according to a recent report on energy security.

'Energy Security: A national challenge in a changing world' written by former energy minister Malcolm Wicks was commissioned by the prime minister. It calls for the UK to do much more to develop indigenous and alternative energy resources, ranging from new nuclear to renewables, and take a rigorous look at exploring its own coal reserves, in innovative and clean ways.

The report describes nuclear as a proven, large-scale, low-carbon way to generate electricity. “To enhance energy security and reduce our reliance on imports, a range between, say, 35-40% of electricity from nuclear could be a sensible aspiration beyond 2030,” it says.

Currently the UK has 19 operating reactors at 10 nuclear power stations. These have provided around 12.5-15% of the country’s electricity supply in recent years.

But as nuclear power stations are shut down over the next decade there will be a short-term decline in the role of nuclear power, until new nuclear reactors are built.

Concerted effort is needed not just from the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) but other Government Departments to achieve all that is necessary to create the right framework for nuclear new build, the report notes.

In this respect it recommends that: “Government should take the opportunity to make a strong and clear statement on the need for new nuclear power plants in the forthcoming National Policy Statement for Nuclear.”

Implementation of the new Planning Act is an “ideal opportunity” for Government to show that it can act in a decisive, joined up way. Successful delivery of this planning reform will allow applications to build new nuclear power stations to be considered and concluded more rapidly, with greater efficiency and in a more inclusive manner.

As well as nuclear, the report also considers other generating options including fossil fuels and renewables.

While the study notes that coal will remain a large part of the future energy mix, it says the UK should focus on developing and demonstrating CCS technology and should develop its own coal reserves in 'a clean way' through the use of innovative technologies.

The report suggests that the target of 15% renewable energy use in the UK by 2020 is over-ambitious, given the low contribution of renewables to our energy mix at present. However over the longer-term period (2020-2050) wave and tidal have the potential to make a significant contribution to the UK’s energy needs, it says.

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