The Decline of the Nuclear Energy Solution

Last year saw more electricity produced by wind and solar sources than by the UK’s eight nuclear power stations for the first time ever according to recent government figures.

The decreasing cost of renewables is enabling low carbon energy to replace coal and gas. Wind power had a particularly good year with onshore wind farms showing that they have the capacity to outperform fossil fuels. This is giving renewable energy leaders the confidence to call on the government to end its current subsidy ban on new onshore wind farms which they say is holding back the development of UK’s energy infrastructure.

The degree of technological advancement in renewables has helped to bring down the cost of renewable energy in recent years.

The share of electricity generated by renewables last year increased to 29 per cent, while nuclear sources accounted for around 21 per cent. Wind power accounted for 15% of the electricity generated by renewables.

Low carbon energy sources which include both renewables and nuclear can now be seen to be producing over half of all electricity generated.

Greenhouse gas emissions also continued to fall in Britain, in fact dropping by 3% last year as coal use fell and the use of renewables climbed.

The biggest drop in emissions of any UK sector came from the energy sector while no improvement was seen in the pollution from transport and businesses.

The substantial increase in output from renewable energy sources which is now nearly 10 times higher than coal is a remarkable achievement especially when you take into consideration that coal’s output was the higher of the two only five years ago.

Nina Schrank, energy campaigner for Greenpeace UK recently said:

“These fast-moving trends will continue into the next decade as a new generation of offshore wind turbines come online and demonstrate the technology’s ability to provide the bulk of UK demand.”

 Ms. Pinchbeck, executive director of trade body RenewableUK said earlier in the year:

“The cost of new offshore wind halved in 2017 and onshore wind is already the cheapest of any new power source in the UK so it’s vital that new onshore wind should be allowed to compete in the market for the sake of consumers.”

Despite the worldwide decline in fortunes for nuclear power the UK have been pursuing one of the most ambitious nuclear new-build agendas in the world. Britain has been working towards developing an entirely new and untested design of small modular reactors (SMRs).

Though the government has lent a lot of support to the nuclear project this nuclear new-build programme is severely delayed and there is now little chance of operations getting started before 2025. Costs have gone sky-high and even government figures are showing renewables like offshore wind to already be far more affordable. As renewable costs are still decreasing global investments in these alternatives are now already greater than for all conventional generating technologies put together. If you look at the worldwide picture the momentum towards renewables is now so clear that the scale of the UK nuclear ambitions is an international anomaly.

Though there are some environmentalists and scientists who see nuclear power as an important part of a green energy system, government plans to invest in a new nuclear infrastructure have been criticised by many experts. Many campaigners have taken issue with investment being made in new nuclear facilities rather than large scale wind and solar projects.

Ms. Pinchbeck went on to say recently:

“These figures show the government should capitalise on our global lead in this area and stop wasting time and money propping up nuclear power, a failing and increasingly obsolete technology,” said Ms. Pinchbeck.

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