Why a new generation of nuclear is the key to achieving net zero


Hinkley Point C in Somerset to Provide Low Carbon Electricity to Six Million Homes | Credit: EDF

Investing in nuclear power is central to building a net zero economy.

Hartlepool, long a center for shipbuilding and steel, may not seem like the first stop on the road to net zero. Ask a lot of people, and COP26 in Glasgow comes to mind first. Yet the city in the North East has helped give its region the cleanest electricity in England. COP26 is where the talks will take place, but delivery is to places like Hartlepool.

Hartlepool is home to one of the most productive nuclear power plants in the country, producing clean electricity for two million homes. The plant maintains 750 stable and well-paying jobs and has saved 163 million tonnes of emissions since it was commissioned in 1983. Only four stations have saved more emissions, and these are also power plants. nuclear. In fact, nuclear saved the UK 2.3 billion tonnes of emissions, equivalent to the UK’s total emissions from 2015 to 2020. Nuclear last year provides 35% of the UK’s low-carbon electricity and supported 60,000 jobs nationwide.

This is what a net zero economy can look like with investments in nuclear energy: less carbon, more skilled labor. Indeed, politicians from all parties recognize the clean energy opportunity that nuclear offers: the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan established the integral part of nuclear to reach net zero, and Sir Keir Starmer recently called to “invest in the next generation of nuclear power”.

This vision requires urgent decisions, however, or we will soon see a very different picture. By 2024, four of our eight nuclear power plants, including Hartlepool, will retire. They represent 15% of current low-carbon production, which will disappear in three years. By 2030, only one of our current nuclear power plants will still be in service. Just one.

At the same time, the climate change committee says we will need four times as much clean energy to reach net zero, nearly 40% from consistent clean sources like nuclear, where production is unaffected. by weather conditions. The construction of Hinkley Point C, the largest clean energy project in our history, will be a huge step forward, but if we are serious about meeting our decarbonization goals, we will need to produce much more and faster.

The good news is that we have the sites and the expertise to build and operate all kinds of exciting projects. Sizewell C in Suffolk would make a huge contribution to our climate goals and maintain tens of thousands of jobs across the supply chain. Large-scale nuclear developments at Wylfa, Bradwell and Moorside in Cumbria would significantly green our network.

Investing in these solutions has the potential to create a real punch, create jobs, low carbon electricity and while reducing emissions.

In addition, sites such as Hartlepool and many others across the UK are ideally suited for the deployment of future nuclear technologies, such as advanced small modular reactors. These designs have matured much earlier than expected and offer additional solutions for the production of clean heat and green hydrogen. Some UK companies are also looking to build micro-reactors, enabling remote and isolated communities to wean themselves from burning fossil fuels for their power generation.

Investing in these solutions has the potential to create a real punch, to create jobs, low carbon electricity and while reducing emissions. By 2050 nuclear could provide 300,000 jobs in the UK, especially outside the big cities, and 40% of our clean energy. His promise is immense.


To fulfill this promise, we need a new regulatory and licensing regime to govern the deployment of modular reactor technologies, and a new funding model, especially to reduce the cost of new large-scale power plants. . These barriers, fortunately, are not as complicated as nuclear physics. They are relatively simple, but they require decisions.

The scale and scope of the system change needed to achieve net zero by 2050 does not give us the luxury of delaying. Net zero by 2050 means action now, without waiting for a mythical silver bullet to be forged.

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