The future of nuclear energy has always courted controversy but countless research programmes, surveys and studies have concluded that it’s one of the cheapest and safest forms of electrical energy generation, and that is why it’s seen by successive governments as an integral part of UK energy’s future.
A recent survey by three UK universities identified that nuclear power will be key to meeting both future demand and carbon reduction targets and that it is one of the safest sources of electricity – even when radiological consequences of a large accident are taken into account.
As for meeting carbon emissions targets, the research found that this would only be possible with a huge expansion of both renewables and nuclear electricity. By 2020, renewables would have to contribute 55% to the UK electricity mix (the current government target is 15% by 2020) and nuclear 35% by 2035. The study does warn, however, that there are considerable unanswered questions surrounding the expansion of nuclear power including depletion of natural resources, ozone layer reduction, toxicity and health impacts from radiation.
Milestone for UK’s nuclear power programme
Earlier this year, and following four years of intense consideration involving more than 60 scientists, engineers and regulators, the Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Environment Agency granted interim acceptance to the generic designs for both EDF and AREVA UK’s EPR reactors and Westinghouse’s AP1000 reactor.
A number of issues and questions have come to light in recent years, particularly in relationship to nuclear safety and these and more were brought into sharp focus by Japan’s Fukushima disaster in March 2011.
The grant for interim acceptance is an important milestone for UK’s nuclear power programme in that it confirms that all the plans on how the industry will resolve the outstanding issues are in place. However, no reactor will be allowed to be built until all the issues have been resolved and this is now in the hands of plant designers.
Fukushima ready to be decommissioned
It has been confirmed that Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant has been stabilised following the earthquake and Tsunami disaster back in March 2011, which means decommissioning can now begin.
The nuclear reactor has reached a state of cold shutdown, which brings an end to the “accident phase”. It will be a long time before the area fully recovers, which reinforces the need for nuclear investors to have in place a contingency fund for the decommissioning of UK plants in the event of a disaster.
China invests in nuclear future
Meanwhile, in support of its burgeoning economy, China is investing in new nuclear with the country aiming for an increase of up to 300GW of power through nuclear coming online within the next 10-20 years (according to a report in China Daily).
The cost of such an increase will be the equivalent of approximately £81 billion.
Safety aside, no method of power generation, distributed through a grid system is ever going to be 100% reliable or a clean source of energy so the need for power protection will only increase in line with our reliance on electrical appliances, devices and equipment. Riello UPS’s website has lots of information for customers, specifiers and power protection resellers, on UPS products, solutions, applications, equipment and services.