Rising says UK should aim for 50% nuclear

28 February 2018

An experienced nuclear country like the UK should aim to have nuclear accounting for around 50% of its electricity mix, according to World Nuclear Association Director General Agneta Rising. She was speaking at the Civil Nuclear Showcase conference in London on 27 February.

Nuclear energy currently accounts for about 20% of the UK's electricity production. According to the Final Report of the Industrial Strategy Commission published late last year, the UK urgently needs to replace its existing nuclear generating capacity because, of the existing fleet amounting to 8.9 GWe of capacity, all but 1.2 GWe will need to be retired by 2030. The commission said the government's strategy should be driven by the long-term needs of the UK, which include decarbonising the economy, improving infrastructure, boosting export capacity and unlocking long-term investment.

Rising noted that the UK is attracting international investment to deliver a new generation of nuclear power plants.

EDF Energy plans to build two EPR reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset, with China General Nuclear owning a 33.5% stake in the project. The two companies also plan to develop projects to build new plants at Sizewell in Suffolk and Bradwell in Essex, the latter using Chinese reactor technology. Horizon Nuclear Power, which is owned by Japan's Hitachi, plans to deploy the UK Advanced Boiling Water Reactor at two sites - Wylfa Newydd and Oldbury-on-Severn. NuGeneration - the UK joint venture between Japan's Toshiba and France's Engie - plans to build a nuclear power plant of up to 3.8 GWe gross capacity at Moorside, in West Cumbria. Originally, it planned to use AP1000 nuclear reactor technology provided by Westinghouse Electric Company, a group company of Toshiba, but in December Korea Electric Power Company (Kepco) was named as the preferred bidder to acquire 100% of the shares in NuGen, which could lead to a switch from the AP1000 to Kepco's AP1400 reactor design.

"Countries that are building their societies and infrastructure are taking long-term decisions and they are looking to nuclear," Rising said, adding it is important that incentives are offered for all low-carbon energy sources. The UK, she noted, is now ahead of other European countries as it has already started to put these in place.

The International Energy Agency's (IEA's) 2 Degree Scenario (2DS) demonstrates the actions needed in the energy sector to limit the rise in global temperatures to no more than 2°C. Nuclear energy has an essential role to play in this scenario, being one of the largest contributors to electricity supply in 2050. However, government and policy support is needed to make that happen, Rising said.

The global nuclear industry has developed its own vision for the future of electricity, referred to as Harmony. This is based on the IEA's 2DS scenario which aims to avoid the most damaging consequences of climate change and requires a large increase in nuclear energy. Harmony envisages a diverse mix of low-carbon generating technologies deployed in such a manner that the benefits of each are maximised while the negative impacts are minimised. The target for nuclear energy is to provide 25% of electricity in 2050, requiring roughly 1000 GWe of new nuclear capacity to be constructed.

"Achieving this goal will require fair electricity markets, harmonised regulatory processes and an effective safety paradigm," Rising said.

"Global nuclear generation is growing; 24 reactors have started supplying electricity over the last three years, and nearly 30 are due to come online in the next two years," she noted.

An average of five reactors per year began supplying electricity to the grid over the past 25 years, Rising said, but this doubled in 2015 and 2016 and is expected to triple in 2018.

Some 15.7 GWe of new nuclear generating capacity is expected to come online around the world by the end of this year, according to the World Nuclear Association. There are 57 reactors currently under construction with a combined capacity of 61,610 MWe, 20 of which are in China.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News