Nuclear helped UK cut emissions in 2011

30 March 2012

An 8% drop in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the UK in 2011 was helped by an 11% increase in electricity output from the country's nuclear power plants, provisional figures from the government indicate.

According to statistics released by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), UK CO2 emissions in 2011 totalled an estimated 456.3 million tonnes, compared with 495.8 million tonnes in 2010. This decrease "resulted primarily from a decrease in residential gas use, combined with a reduction in demand for electricity accompanied by lower use of gas and greater use of nuclear power for electricity generation," DECC said.

The energy supply sector, which includes power stations and emissions from the energy sector, accounted for some 40% of the UK's CO2 emissions in 2011, while the transport sector was responsible for 26% and the business and residential sectors each contributed 15%. Emissions from the energy sector have provisionally been estimated to be 183.8 million tonnes in 2011, a 6% decrease from 2010.

"The decrease in emissions from this sector since 2010 can almost entirely be attributed to power stations," according to DECC. "Demand for electricity was 3% lower in 2011 than in 2010, and there was also a change in the fuel mix used at power stations for electricity generation. The technical problems which had been experienced at some nuclear power stations in 2010 were resolved, and there was therefore more nuclear power available for electricity generation in 2011." A 17% drop in gas use for generation together with an 11% increase in the use of nuclear power led to a fall of about 7% in emissions from electricity generation.

Meanwhile, CO2 emissions per unit of electricity supplied by major power producers from fossil fuels are estimated to have averaged 582 tonnes per GWh in 2011. Emissions from electricity generated from coal were around 887 tonnes/GWh, while those for electricity supplied by gas were 363 tonnes/GWh.

A total of 365.3 TWh of electricity was generated in the UK in 2011, 4.2% less than produced in 2010. Gas-fuelled power plants produced 145.4 TWh of this, accounting for almost 40% of the 2011 total, with coal-fired plants producing 108.4 TWh (29.7%). The UK's nuclear power plants generated 69.0 TWh of electricity in 2011 - 11.1% more than in 2010 - accounting for 39.8% of total output. Correspondingly, nuclear's share of the UK's electricity production rose from 16.3% to 18.9%. Meanwhile, renewable sources produced 34.8 TWh of electricity in 2011, a 35% increase from 2010. Their share of UK generation increased from 6.8% to 9.5%.

The UK has a number of targets, both international and domestic, for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These are essentially the Kyoto Protocol target and the Carbon Budgets set out under the UK Climate Change Act.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News