Nuclear power currently supplies ~3% of total UK energy consumption (18% of UK electricity consumption). By 2035 however, all existing reactors will be closed, with the majority of generating capacity offline by 2023. Current government policy is to induce private sector companies to build around 16GWe of new nuclear in the next two decades as part of its energy security and climate change mitigation obligations.
Nuclear fission does provide a low carbon source of energy, even with life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions from the uranium fuel production chain, spent fuel reprocessing/disposal, reactor construction and decommissioning accounted for. There are however important safety, environmental, social and economic implications to consider before nuclear can be recommended. Furthermore, while new build nuclear may be part of a low carbon energy mix in the future, the potentially long time lag between the decision to build a reactor and full operation means new nuclear is unlikely to contribute to the CO2 reductions required by 2020 suggested by the Committee on Climate Change.
Tyndall Manchester engaged with an ESRC and EPSRC funded project assessing the sustainability of nuclear power (SPRIng). The SPRIng project aimed to take a neutral stance on nuclear new build and provide a multi-criteria decision making tool to help stakeholders make informed decisions.
Tyndall Manchester has provided energy scenarios that explore the role of nuclear energy under various CO2 reduction pathways. The role of nuclear energy for providing low carbon heat for the industrial, commercial and domestic sectors is also being researched.