New Moorside nuclear plant can help solve energy crisis

Artist's impression of the Westinghouse AP1000 design
Artist's impression of the Westinghouse AP1000 design
26 January 2016 12:11PM

The vital national importance of new nuclear build in west Cumbria is underlined by an influential report published today.

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IME) is warning that the country faces a critical “energy supply gap” as a result of the Government’s strategy of closing all coal-fired power stations by 2025.

The problem is aggravated by the planned closure and decommissioning of several nuclear power stations, with those at Hartlepool, Heysham, Hinkley Point, Hunterston and Torness earmarked to close by 2024.

According to the IME's report, Engineering the UK Electricity Gap, the shortage will force the UK to import up to 55 per cent of its electricity needs from Europe and Scandinavia.

Dr Jenifer Baxter, head of energy and eat the IME, and lead author of the report, said: “The UK is facing an electricity supply crisis. As the population rises and, with the greater use of electricity use in transport and heating, it looks almost certain that demand is going to rise.

“However, with little or no focus on reducing demand, the retirement of the majority of the nuclear fleet, recent proposals to phase out coal-fired power by 2025 and the cut in renewable energy subsidies, the UK is on course to produce even less electricity than it does at the moment.”

She argues that plans to plug the gap by building combined cycle gas turbine plants are unrealistic, because the UK would need to construct 30 in under 10 years. Only four have been built in the last 10 years.

The findings add impetus to NuGen's plans for what would be the UK's largest nuclear power station at Moorside, Sellafield.

The combined 3.6GW capacity of the three Westinghouse AP1000 reactors would, at a stroke, supply seven per cent of the UK’s electricity needs. 

NuGen expects to make a final decision on whether to proceed by the end of 2018. Construction is due to start in 2020 and the first reactor should be on stream by 2024, with all three generating electricity by 2026.

Dr Baxter added: “Currently there are insufficient incentives for companies to invest in any sort of electricity infrastructure or innovation. 

"Under current policy, it is almost impossible for UK electricity demand to be met by 2025.

“Government needs to take urgent action to work with industry to create a clear pathway for new electricity infrastructure to be built including fossil-fuel plants, nuclear, energy storage and combined heat and power.”

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Bill   Dickson , Millom Thursday, 03 March, 2016 at 1:26PM
I agree with this article that the proposed Moorside power station will help but nuclear power is most efficiently used on base-load power. That is, supplying the same amount of power day in and day out. It's not very good at covering the peaks of demand due to its slow response times. On the other hand, renewable sourced such as hydro and wind can be switched on and off fairly quickly. This is why a mix of sources is probably the right solution for the UK at this time in order to allow time to build more long-term solutions such as tidal which would have the flexibility to be used for peak-lopping as well as base-load. Further off, the supply mix could include electricity storage in the form of pumped storage and/or batteries but the latter need time for development in order to make them efficient and reliable.
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