Nuclear Power Facts
There is lots of information available about the nuclear power industry. Here we’ve brought together the key facts into one useful page
The industry is closely regulated by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) which makes sure that all nuclear plants are built and operated to the highest safety standards. The Environment Agency, Natural Resources Wales and Scottish Environment Protection Agency ensure radioactive waste and other environmental impacts are correctly managed.
UK nuclear facilities are built with extensive safety measures in place so they can safely withstand extreme conditions such as fires and earthquakes.
Nuclear waste has been managed safely in the UK for over 50 years. The industry has extensive experience, a strong safety culture and is overseen by a robust and independent nuclear regulatory body. The UK Government has a policy to develop a deep Geological Disposal Facility for final storage of UK waste. This follows international best practice and the construction of geological disposal facilities is already underway in countries such as Finland and Sweden.
Nuclear facilities are monitored by a number of domestic and international bodies who ensure a full range of clear-cut security and safeguard arrangements are followed. Modern nuclear power stations are extremely robust structures. They have a multi-layered defence against physical threats such as aircraft strikes and other impacts.
A balanced energy mix is essential to providing affordable, secure and sustainable energy supplies for the UK over the decades ahead. Renewable energy will play a central role in this mix but cannot grow fast enough to replace the electricity shortfall. Nor can they independently ensure stable electricity supplies.
Nuclear power is proven to be an affordable, long-term, low carbon option for power generation. This is because fuel costs represent only a small fraction of the total operating costs for nuclear power compared to fossil fuel generation. A range of independent studies show the cost of nuclear generation over its lifetime (including decommissioning and waste management) is competitive with other sources of power.
Nuclear power has a strong future. Fuel can be easily sourced with no sign of running out. The uranium we require to fuel existing and potential new stations is readily available and can be found in politically stable countries. The amount of fuel required is small in volume and even a rapid expansion of nuclear power on a worldwide scale would not unduly affect its availability.
The civil nuclear industry already employs nearly 66,000 highly skilled people throughout the UK, with investment in new nuclear forecast to create up to 25,000 new jobs
Nuclear energy has supplied the UK’s electricity safely and reliably since 1956. The nuclear industry’s eight reactors currently supply around a fifth of the UK’s electricity.
Nuclear supplies around 11% of the world’s electricity. There are over 440 commercial nuclear power reactors operable in 31 countries.
Nuclear is the only proven technology capable of delivering large amounts of low carbon energy whatever the weather. The World Nuclear Association says nuclear generation avoids the emission of over two billion tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.
A nuclear reactor itself does not emit any greenhouse gases, and even if the emissions from the mining of uranium, building of power stations and management of waste are taken into account they’re still much lower than the emissions produced by burning fossil fuels, and roughly equivalent to the lifetime carbon footprint of wind power.
The Nuclear Industry Association says that between 2010 and 2030, 65% of the UK’s electricity generating plant will close, meaning new low carbon infrastructure will be needed to keep the lights on and keep carbon emissions down. Despite ongoing efforts to improve energy efficiency, demand for electricity is expected to increase and if these power plants are not replaced, the UK could face a major shortfall in electricity supply.
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