UK study stresses need for nuclear

27 October 2015

The UK's Royal Academy of Engineering RAE has warned that time is running out to make critical decisions to meet goals of achieving a "secure and affordable low carbon energy system for 2030 and beyond" and that nuclear power is needed to meet the "massive ... challenge" that should be approached as a "whole systems" problem. The RAE report, "A Critical Time for UK Energy Policy", was undertaken at the request of the government's Council for Science and Technology. "The Academy stresses 'time is rapidly running out to make the crucial planning decisions and secure investment,' to ensure the UK has an energy system to meet its emissions targets," the RAE said on its web site.

"As a secure, baseload source of low-carbon electricity, nuclear power is essential," said the RAE. By 2030, specifically, the nuclear capacity in Britain could range from 5GWe to 15GWe. However, the low end of that scenario would be "a major concern". The Academy applauded the government's efforts to reinstate nuclear energy as a viable option but warned that the process for plant development was extremely slow and could put grid delivery at risk.

"So far, despite the obvious challenges, the system is on course to meet the targets set by UK and EU, but only just, and all the easiest actions have already been taken," the study concludes. However, it says progress in the electricity sector "will only get more difficult and there is a serious risk of non-delivery".

It noted: "While consideration of the whole system is vitally important, the most immediate concern is to maintain supply in the electricity system and ensure that new capacity is being built," the study says. "Decarbonization of the electricity system remains a central pillar of all credible future scenarios but uncertainty over the past few years while market reform was completed has resulted in serious under-investment."

Energy Technologies Institute CEO David Clarke, who led the group that produced the report, said updating the UK energy system involved solving the "trilemma of decarbonization, security and affordability." He added: "Failure to plan the development of the whole energy system carefully will result, at best, in huge increases in the cost of delivery or, at worst, a failure to deliver."

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