What is the nuclear industry doing to deal with the issue of waste?
The UK pioneered the use of nuclear power and has expertise in all aspects of the nuclear lifecycle. All of the UK’s nuclear waste is securely contained with an ever-increasing proportion being solidified to make it suitable for long-term management.The planned new build projects all have plans for how to deal with the waste included, making the generator responsible for the costs, not the public. Furthermore, the Government is consulting on a new geological disposal site at which waste can be stored and managed. The proposed new fleet of plants will only add about 10% to the volume of existing waste over their 60-year life span.
Could we see something similar to Chernobyl or Fukushima here in the UK?
The UK nuclear industry is committed to learning all it can from what happened in Fukushima to ensure UK assets remain safe and secure. The problems in Japan arose after a devastating natural disaster. The safety of UK nuclear facilities has been reviewed and all have been given a clean bill of health in the wake of the incident.The Chernobyl incident came about through human error as part of an unauthorised experiment. Actions of this nature would never happen in the UK, which is strictly regulated by an independent regulator who maintains the highest standards in the world.
Wouldn't we be better off investing in clean coal, which will be cheaper, cleaner and more secure in the long run?
Nuclear energy produces no air pollution and has the similar CO2 output as wind power. Clean coal technology uses carbon capture and storage but it is unproven that carbon will be able to be stored indefinitely. Furthermore, an inch long pellet of uranium used in UK plants has more energy than one tonne of coal. A nuclear fission reaction is about a million times more energetic than the chemical reaction found in burning coal, oil or gas. One gram of uranium will produce as much energy as burning three tonnes of coal.
Won’t new nuclear take too long to be ready? Surely we should be looking at things that we can access now?
The UK already has 16 reactors operating across nine sites which generate 20% of the electricity we currently use, which will generate power for the next decade or so. These will work alongside other renewable sources such as wind. Building new infrastructure takes time and as most current nuclear power plants will be switched off in the next 10 years or so, it is important to start the process early. While some current nuclear power plants are looking to get extensions to their operating lives so they can generate for longer, the new build projects which will happen alongside them will create jobs and skills for the areas in which they are being built. The new build programme will create 30,000 jobs at its peak, with each new plant needing almost 1,000 jobs on site for the 60+ year lifespan.
Nuclear power is a proven form of electricity gneration worldwide
Nuclear supplies more than 11% of the world’s electricity. There are currently 436 commercial nuclear reactors operating in 30 countries, with a further 67 under construction.
Today the world produces as much electricity from nuclear energy as it did from all sources combined in 1960.
Source: World Nuclear Association, as of 6 October 2015 (Operable = Connected to the grid; Planned = Approvals, funding or major commitment in place; Under Construction = First Concrete for reactor poured or major refurbishment under way; Proposed = Specific programme or site proposals)