Country profile: United Kingdom

Summary figures for 2017

The following information is from the NEA publication Nuclear Energy Data, the annual compilation of official statistics and country reports on nuclear energy in OECD member countries.

Country Number of nuclear power plants connected to the grid Nuclear electricity generation (net TWh) Nuclear percentage of total electricity supply
United Kingdom 15 58.0 (b) 18.0
OECD Europe127774.421.7
OECD Total3111 856.817.6
NEA Total 352 2 062.6 17.9
(b) Preliminary data.

Country report

The UK government recognises the importance of nuclear for delivering decarbonisation and energy security. New nuclear power is being delivered and planned, with the backdrop of much of the current fleet being planned to close in the following decade. The UK government is also preparing for its exit from the EU and from the Euratom Treaty.

Arrangements are being put into place to set up a domestic nuclear safeguards regime to enable the United Kingdom to meet international safeguards and nuclear non-proliferation obligations that will take effect once Euratom arrangements no longer apply to the United Kingdom. The Nuclear Safeguards Bill, which is currently making its way through Parliament, enables the UK to set up such a domestic safeguards regime.

The domestic safeguards regime – to be overseen by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) – will exceed what is required to meet future international safeguards obligations, and will be robust and as comprehensive as that currently provided for by Euratom. On 19 January 2018, the government published pre-consultation draft regulations to underpin the Nuclear Safeguards Bill and a first technical workshop with operators was held on these regulations on 9 February 2018. A formal consultation will take place this summer.

The UK government has started the process of seeking International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) approval of the UK's Voluntary Offer Agreement and Additional Protocol with the IAEA.

Future development of nuclear energy in the United Kingdom

In the upcoming decades, the current fleet of UK NPPs will be shut down, with the first units expected to come offline in 2023 and the last currently expected (barring lifetime extensions) to come offline in 2035. As part of its overall energy policy, the government has welcomed industry to come forward with plans for new NPPs. Current plans to develop new nuclear power at six sites in the United Kingdom are set out below:

  • EDF and CGN (as the NNB Generation Company [NNBG]) are currently constructing two EPRs at Hinkley Point C (3.2 GW).
  • EDF and CGN have plans for an additional two EPRs at Sizewell (3.2 GW). The two companies also intend to deploy HPR1000 technology at Bradwell.
  • Horizon Nuclear Power, owned by Japan's Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy Ltd, has proposed to build two advanced boiling water reactors (ABWRs) at each of its sites in Wylfa and Oldbury (2.7 GW each).
  • NuGen, owned by Japan's Toshiba, has proposed to build up to 3.8 GW of nuclear power generation at the Moorside site near Sellafield. In December 2017, it was announced that KEPCO had been chosen by Toshiba as the "preferred bidder" to acquire NuGen.

In March 2017, the ONR also gave consent to begin the construction of the Hinkley Point C NPP, including the structural concrete placement. In January 2017, UK HPR1000 of General Nuclear System Ltd. began the generic design assessment (GDA) process. In March 2017, Westinghouse's AP1000 reactor design completed the GDA and was confirmed as suitable for construction in the United Kingdom. In December 2017, Hitachi- GE's UK advanced boiling water reactor (UK ABWR) cleared the GDA process.

Waste management and decommissioning

In January 2018, as the next step following the publication of the Implementing Geological Disposal White Paper in 2014, two consultations were launched in parallel by the government. The consultation on the National Policy Statement (NPS) for geological disposal infrastructure creates a clear route for future planning decisions for a geological disposal facility (GDF) and for deep boreholes that are necessary to characterise potential GDF sites. The NPS will be subjected to parliamentary scrutiny before it can be designated. The "Working with Communities" consultation is about how communities should be engaged and represented in the consent-based process of finding a site for a GDF. Both consultations closed on 19 April, and responses are currently being analysed. Formal responses will then be issued in due course. The formal process of engagement with communities can only start once the "Working with Communities" policy has been finalised.

Some aspects of the radioactive waste management policy are devolved to the national administrations of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

In May 2015, the Welsh government adopted geological disposal as its policy for the long-term management of higher activity radioactive waste (HAW), joining the UK government-led programme together with the Northern Ireland administration. The Welsh government considers that geological disposal can only be delivered in Wales if a community is willing to host a GDF, and in December 2015 issued a further policy statement setting down outline arrangements for working with potential volunteer host communities. A further Welsh government consultation about detailed proposals for working with communities that might wish to discuss the possibility of hosting a GDF concluded in April 2018. Responses to this consultation will be considered before a further policy statement is issued later in the year.

The Scottish government is responsible for radioactive substance regulation in Scotland, and for the policy for radioactive waste management. Scotland has a separate policy for HAW from that of England and Wales. The Scottish government policy is that the long-term management of HAW should be in near-surface facilities. Facilities should be located as near to the site where the waste is produced as possible and be subject to robust regulatory requirements.

The Scottish government has made clear that it will not grant planning consent to any forthcoming proposal to build new NPPs in Scotland under current technologies, although it recognises that lifetime extensions for the pre-existing operational power plants could help maintain security of supply while the transition to renewable and alternative thermal generation takes place.

Decommissioning and clean-up of the UK's civil nuclear legacy in a safe, secure and cost effective manner that minimises environmental impact and the burden on taxpayers is a national priority. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), a non-departmental public body, is the body tasked by the UK government with the decommissioning and clean-up of 17 sites that represent the UK's civil nuclear legacy. The importance of the task is reflected in the NDA's funding, which has remained at approximately GBP 3 billion per year.

Key progress and achievements recently made across the NDA estate include:

Sellafield

Legacy ponds and silos
  • Pile Fuel Cladding Silo: cutting into the silo is now complete, marking a major irreversible step in the process to open and retrieve the waste material.
  • Pile Fuel Storage Pond: the entire bulk fuel stocks have been removed from the pond, resulting in a 70% reduction in its radioactivity content. Radioactive sludge removal is underway.
  • First Generation Magnox Storage Pond: removal of fuel bulk sludge retrievals is underway.
  • Magnox Swarf Storage Silo (MSSS): the first of the three silo emptying plant machines has been installed on the top of the silos, and work on another is commencing eight months ahead of schedule. A better understanding of the evolution of the waste types in MSSS, as a result of scientific studies, has resulted in an acceleration of when waste retrievals can begin.
Other key achievements
  • Evaporator D: the newest plant at Sellafield has now entered into operation. It will play an important role in reducing the stocks of highly active liquors which will arise from the post-operational clean out of reprocessing facilities.

Dounreay

  • Nearly half of the nuclear materials that are part of the site's "exotics" inventory have been removed. The target is to have the remainder of the inventory removed from the site by the end of December 2018.

Magnox

  • The Bradwell site has completed its fuel element debris (FED) treatment programme, which marks a significant step in progressing the site towards its care and maintenance phase, which it is expected to reach by the end of 2018.
  • Specialist divers have been deployed at Dungeness A and Sizewell A to remove radioactive waste from the former spent fuel ponds.

Low-level waste repository (LLWR)

  • The LLWR continues to maintain good performance for LLW disposals at the site while also supporting the government and the NDA's national programme for LLW, which enables LLW to be managed and disposed of through alternative routes. This disposal through alternative routes has resulted in an 85% reduction of LLW being sent to the LLWR in 2017.

Source: Nuclear Energy Data 2018

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