Why UK Government’s nuclear power plans will not and cannot balance fluctuating renewables

Government plans for nuclear power will do surprisingly little to balance fluctuating renewable energy. Government plans (to achieve net zero by 2050) issued in 2020 say that 20% of electricity generation should come from nuclear power, something which is very unlikely to be achieved in 2050 anyway.

Yet whilst nuclear power supporters have a great tendency to talk about successions of windless, sunless days in winter being a supposed killer punch against renewable energy they don’t explain how we are going to get by with just 20% power under the Government plans for nuclear power. Where’s the other 80 per cent going to come from in these windless sunless days?…….. should be the obvious question. Stored renewable energy would be our answer of course, but the nuclear supporters don’t appear to say much at all.

The Government’s answer seemed, in its 2020 report, to be the use of natural gas power plant with carbon capture and storage (CCS) to step in when there is not enough wind or sun on successive days.  This in itself is interesting since there is not, at the moment, a single functioning commercial CCS power plant in the UK. There are claims that in future gas plant are going to be ‘CCS ready’, which, to me, belongs in the fantasy land of ‘oven ready’ Brexit deals and ‘hydrogen ready’ gas boilers.

Of course obvious solution should be to produce storable energy substances like hydrogen, renewable methane or methanol (as our recent report suggests) that can be used in gas power plant to produce electricity when required. Our report, compiled by experts from LUT University in Finland, have calculated that a 100% renewable energy solution for net zero by 2050 would be a £100 billion + cheaper method of reaching net zero compared to Government plans.

Before any nuclear supporter starts suggesting that therefore we should have, say, 80 per cent of our power coming from nuclear power, that would of course be incredibly expensive electricity compared to solar and wind-based power. A nuclear-dominated electricity system would (apart from other unsavoury things) be like having a permanent 2022-3 energy price crisis even if it was possible to build so much nuclear. Which it is not.

Under the Government’s plans electricity production will double by 2050. In order to even achieve 20 per cent of our electricity supply from nuclear by 2050, we would need to build the equivalent of six more Hinkley C’s. The Government is currently labouring intensively to not quite get the plans together for a further one, (Sizewell C) never mind 6.

But then there’s lots of renewable energy.  There’s already a UK  pipeline of about 100GW of offshore wind, which will in itself constitute around 150% of current electricity production. That’s on top of all the possibilities for solar pv, onshore wind, tidal stream power, wave power etc etc.

Why don’t we just get real and throw the Government’s plans away and go for 100% renewable energy?

We are having a free in-person seminar in London on April 22nd to discuss these issues. Come along and join the fun!

Confirmed speakers so far include: introduction by Caroline Lucas MP,  Jonathon Porritt (Forum for the Future), Charmian Larke (Atlantic Energy), Professor Christian Breyer (LUT University), Professor Mark Barrett (UCL), Professor Nick Eyre (University of Oxford), Dr Doug Parr (Greenpeace), Alethea Warrington (Possible), Rianna Gargiulo (Friends of the Earth and Divest UK), Alison Downes (Stop Sizewell C), Pete Wilkinson (Together Against Sizewell C),  Ian Fairlie and David Toke (both 100percentrenewableuk), Kate Hudson (CND) and Dave Andrews (Claverton Group)

You can either attend the event in-person (that’s better as you can talk to people, be social and make contacts),


or if  or if you cannot attend in person  it is £30 admittance to the virtual (online) version of the event (that’s because there are substantial extra costs involved here) SIGN UP HERE

by David Toke

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One thought on “Why UK Government’s nuclear power plans will not and cannot balance fluctuating renewables”

  1. Never mind these 2?
    Nuclear Power Stations are currently owned by France and who knows else. China is supposed to build Sizewell C when that finally becomes fact. Ridiculously unsafe.
    The safe deposit and ongoing safety of Plutonium. What are the facts?

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