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UK’s nuclear industry decline is a permanent process

Cash-strapped nuclear industry has no answers to Britain’s energy shortages. While the issues limiting the UK’s nuclear power plant capacity may be temporary, its broader pattern of decline is not. As power
prices spike to record levels this week, one vital corner of Britain’s energy supply is failing to operate at full tilt. A nuclear reactor at Hartlepool has been floundering over an issue with a gas turbine, while another at Heysham 1 is offline after a forced outage last month.

Overall, the capacity of Britain’s ageing nuclear fleet of reactors is down by about one-third (5.2GW compared to 8GW) this week amid planned maintenance and unexpected problems. It is only adding to pressure on officials attempting to balance the electricity system as gas prices soar to record highs on a supply crunch, and wind output drops as weather calms.

But while the issues limiting nuclear power plant capacity may be temporary, its broader pattern of decline is not. The industry, which produces about 18pcof UK power annually, sits at a crossroads amid a rapidly evolving energy system. Most of the ageing nuclear fleet is set to shut down by the end of
the decade and several within the next few years.

Whether and how it will be replaced is uncertain, with industry critics accusing the Government of
dragging its feet at a time when Britain needs low carbon power to fill gaps in wind and solar generation. In a bid to help the flailing sector, ministers are set to bring forward a new finance mechanism which supporters believe can help reduce the costs of large nuclear projects. Consumers
would pay for the projects upfront while they are being built.

This,however, is sure to be a much tougher sell this winter given the soaring wholesale costs likely to boost bills. Whitehall is aiming to bring forward at least one large-scale nuclear project this parliament, and is puttingsome money into developing the next generation of technology: Advanced Modular Reactors and small modular reactors (SMRs).

So, does it matter if more nuclear power is not developed? Many experts say yes, given the stable
role they can provide. But that doesn’t mean it should be at any cost……….

 Telegraph 15th Sept 2021


September 21, 2021 - Posted by | ENERGY, politics, UK

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