Nuclear and coal in the UK energy mix

Muhammad Asif of the School of Built and Natural Environment, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow and colleagues John Currie and T. Muneer at the School of Engineering and Built Environment, Napier University, Edinburgh, explain that the provision of sufficient, affordable and secure energy is crucial for any modern economy.

However, across the globe, those same economies are facing challenges such as climate change, limited resources and rising costs. The team has analysed the situation facing the UK and offers a solution based on energy security and diversity in the supply mix that could be the most sustainable option for the country.

Asif and his colleagues explain how currently the UK is self sufficient in natural gas, exporting approximately the same quantities as it imports. The major energy contributors are coal, oil, gas and nuclear power. This is set to change quickly, however, the UK's oil and gas reserves dwindle and coal and nuclear power stations, which today produce almost 54% of the UK total electricity needs will reach the end of their working life.

“It is estimated that the 'business as usual' scenario, over the next two decades, could result in the loss of almost one third of the UK's electricity production capacity,” the researchers say. That equates to a loss of 25 Gigawatts of electricity production by the year 2023. The UK will soon have to face the challenge of bridging the widening gap between energy supply and demand.

Others have suggested that the energy mix should shift more towards, gas-fired power stations. However, this could be devastating to the UK economy, Asif and colleagues emphasis. It would increase immensely our reliance on natural gas imports, as well as reducing diversity and so security in the energy mix.

Asif and his colleagues conclude from their energy analysis that the most secure approach to energy supply after 2023 will involve nuclear expansion, the development of clean coal-fired power stations and a dramatic increase in renewable energy sources.

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