Nuclear Energy in the United Kingdom

Justin Stein
March 16, 2016

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2016


Fig. 1: Sizewell B Nuclear Power Plant. (Courtesy of John Brodrick. Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The United Kingdom has 15 nuclear reactors generating 18% of its electricity. [1] Half of this capacity is expected to be retired by 2025. Indeed, in the past two decades no new nuclear reactors have been constructed in the UK; the last to join the grid was Sizewell B, as pictured in Fig. 1, back in 1995. However, in 2015, the British government has taken new policy initiatives towards phasing out coal-fired generation and relying more on nuclear power. [1] The government agrees that opponents of nuclear energy don't understand the science and that nuclear energy is safe and reliable. The public also has supported nuclear energy for several years.

Timeline of Nuclear Energy in United Kingdom

In 2003, Energy White Paper was released discussing that nuclear energy is an unattractive source of energy. A few years later, the NDA (Nuclear Decommissioning Authority) was created to take strategic responsibility for the UK's nuclear legacy. [2] Then, the United Kingdom's 2008 Energy Act attempted to reduce CO2 emissions. Finally, in 2012, an energy bill was introduced into Parliament implementing nuclear energy projects.

Benefits of Nuclear Energy for United Kingdom

There are many benefits for nuclear energy production in the United Kingdom. First, nuclear energy is a cheap and "green" energy source. Not only does nuclear energy provide the United Kingdom with energy security and reduce foreign imports, but it also has no air pollution and very low carbon emissions. [1] The price of nuclear energy also represents a small fraction of the total operating costs for nuclear power, making costs stable and predictable. This is direct contrast to the price of fossil fuels, where prices often fluctuate. [1] In addition, nuclear energy is a more efficient energy source. Lastly, there are numerous economic gains for creating large number of jobs with nuclear energy.

Nuclear Energy for the Future of the United Kingdom

EDF energy, one of the biggest integrated energy companies in the United Kingdom, realizes the important of a diverse mix of energy sources for the UK's energy needs and to address climate change. EDF feels nuclear energy must be in this mix of new energy resources for the future. [3]

© Justin Stein. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] "The UK's Nuclear Future," Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills, Government of the United Kingdom, 2013.

[2] "A Guide to Nuclear Regulation in the UK," Office of Nuclear Regulation, Ogvernment of the United Kingdom, 2014.

[3] "UK Nuclear Power Plant Gets Go-Ahead," BBC News, 21 Oct 13.