Development of new technology would move UK away from fossil fuels and generate two-thirds of power by 2050
The UK will need to develop a huge fleet of currently experimental nuclear reactors by the middle of the century, to generate around two-thirds of the country’s electricity supply if it is to meet the most nuclear-intensive scenario for moving away from fossil fuels, according to a report by three of the government’s most senior scientific advisers.
The expansion would involve developing nuclear generation technologies that are not currently used commercially anywhere in the world, and would also entail a huge expansion from the current electricity contribution of nuclear power to the UK grid. In 2011, nuclear supplied 18% of electricity demand.
If each reactor has the generating capacity of the Hinkley Point power station that would mean at least a trebling of the current number of reactors – 16 at nine different sites around the country. The eventual number could be much higher because the new unconventional reactors are expected to have a smaller generating capacity.
The expansion is necessary to fill the gap left by fossil fuels such as coal and gas, which the government has pledged to phase out to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
The report, which is not yet published, encourages development of unconventional alternatives such as “fast reactors” powered off nuclear waste, designs using thorium rather than uranium, and even fusion power. It implies they could help nuclear to provide as much as two-thirds of UK electricity by 2050.
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