The 1970s and 1980s were good years for nuclear reactor construction in the UK, but most of them are going to retire in the next decade.
The UK’s sixteen nuclear reactors currently provide some 19% of the energy, 70TWh [terawatt-hours], used in the country, which doesn’t including the 12TWh imported from France, which is mostly nuclear, as well. Seven of these reactors, built between 1971 and 1984, will shut down by the end of the decade, and another eight, built between 1976 and 1989, will shut down by 2023, leaving just over 8TWh capacity.
These nuclear reactors capacity will have to be replaced if the UK is going to keep up with energy demands, which are increasing every year. The options aren’t looking too good. Coal was at its highest usage in 2012, twice as much as nuclear, while renewable energy sources barely register. Shutting down nuclear reactors might have the undesired effect of increasing utilization of coal or, even natural gas, which is causing a bit of unrest.
In order to keep this from happening, the UK is going the nuclear route in order to replace some of the capacity that will be lost in the next ten years, as well as exploring extension of the certification of some of the reactors destined to retire by 2023. Signing a $25.8 billion [£16 billion] plan with French firm EDF, the UK will build two nuclear reactors on the existing Hinkley Point facility, located in Somerset, in the southwestern part of the country. These will be the first new nuclear reactors built in the country since 1995.
The government cites jobs and stable electricity, as well as reduced carbon dioxide emissions, but opponents point to the possible danger of nuclear reactors as well as that these new plants might draw attention away from developing renewable energy options.