EDF nuclear to power UK trains

11 January 2013

By electrifying more track and contracting nuclear power supplies from EDF Energy the UK rail network operator will reduce fossil fuel use over the next ten years.

A joint statement today described how Network Rail will purchase power exclusively from EDF Energy, with that supply matched to nuclear generation. With a requirement of 3.2 TWh per year, Network Rail is the UK's largest power customer. It owns all the railway infrastructure and purchases power centrally, recouping money from firms that operate trains across its network.

Top speed (Network Rail) (460x267)
An EMT Meridian train makes a test run at its top speed of 125 mph (200 kph) in July last year - using peak power of 2.8 MWe (Image: Network Rail)

Currently, 55% of rail traffic in the UK is electrically powered but this is set to grow to 75% by 2020 with the completion of an electrification program spanning 2000 miles (3220 km) of track. Network Rail chief executive David Higgins said, "Rail is already the greenest form of public transport and this partnership with EDF Energy will help us make it greener still."

For EDF Energy, CEO Vincent de Rivaz called the deal "a massive vote of confidence in our nuclear-backed energy." He said, "The deal places nuclear energy at the heart of the UK's infrastructure for the next ten years and serves to underline that nuclear power is part of everyday life in Britain."

EDF Energy operates 14 Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor and one pressurized water reactor, totalling 9548 MWe in generating capacity. It has advanced plans for a new EPR unit at Hinkley Point, which it wants to be the first of four. The company also has wind and coal assets, but output from these was excluded from the Network Rail deal, which "comes with a guarantee that the electricity supplied... is matched by electricity from low-carbon nuclear generation."

Network Rail will purchase power "up to ten years in advance" under the deal, a privilege which the companies said "helps to deliver greater certainty over costs and significantly reduce exposure to short term, volatile energy prices." This kind of long-term arrangement is made possible by the economics of nuclear power, which feature high costs for construction and capital but low and predictable fuel and operating costs.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News