Nuclear power will be an "integral" part of meeting the UK's rising electricity demand, industry body says

 
Courtney Goldsmith
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The UK's electricity supplies face pressure of rising demand (Source: Getty)

As Britain aims to reduce emissions to meet its carbon commitments, the UK's Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) has insisted that nuclear power will be an integral part of the balanced, low carbon energy mix.

The UK’s eight nuclear power stations cranked out more than one fifth of the UK’s electricity last year, while low carbon sources in general made up more than 45 per cent of the country's power generation, according to official statistics.

The government announced this week it plans to stop the sales of petrol and diesel cars from 2040, adding pressure to the UK's electricity supplies to meet increasing demand.

A report from the National Grid earlier this month said the move to electric vehicles and electric heating could drive peak demand up from 60 gigawatts (GW) to 85GW in 2050.

Figures published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis) today showed that the UK's nuclear power stations produced 21 per cent of the country's electricity last year, which was flat from 2015.

Meanwhile, power generation fell from onshore wind (down 8.4 per cent), offshore wind (5.8 per cent) and hydro (down 14 per cent) due to lower rainfall and wind speeds.

“More than ever the UK needs to ensure it continues to have a secure, reliable and available supply of low carbon power to meet our changing requirements," said Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the NIA.

"While low carbon electricity generation reaching 45 per cent in 2016 demonstrates progress, there is much more to do to meet our climate commitments and maximise the economic opportunities for clean growth in the UK."

Greatrex argued that nuclear power provides a high-density source of electricity, which complements the variability of other low carbon power sources, but nuclear projects face their own set of issues.

Hinkley Point C is the first of Britain's new generation of nuclear plants, but costs have spiralled and delays have pushed back the project's construction. Meanwhile, concerns are mounting about the NuGen nuclear project in Cumbria, which is led by troubled Japanese conglomerate Toshiba. Toshiba's Westinghouse, which builds reactors, filed for bankruptcy protection earlier this year.

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