Country profile: United Kingdom

Summary figures for 2012

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) 2012
Nuclear percentage of total electricity supply
United Kingdom
18
62.7
**
17.0
 
OECD Europe
135
849.0
24.0
 
Total
331
1 884.0
18.9
 

** Secretariat estimate

Future development of nuclear power

As at the end of December 2012, there were 16 licensed reactors with a combined capacity of 9.2 GW operating in the United Kingdom (UK). The UK reactor fleet is comparatively old and operators have stated that they expected up to 7.4 GW of existing nuclear capacity to close by 2019. The government has taken a series of facilitative actions to encourage nuclear new build, and industry has announced ambitions for construction of up to 16 GW by 2025. The first reactor is scheduled to go online in 2019. New nuclear investments will be part of the total GBP 75 billion estimated for new power generation capacity needed by 2020. Three consortia are currently preparing for the construction of new nuclear power plants:

Among the consortia, NNBGenco has made most progress having received regulatory approval (site licence, environmental permits and Generic Design Assessment of its EPR reactor design) in late 2012.

Generic Design Assessment (GDA) is one of the facilitative actions set out in the Nuclear White Paper 2008 and is undertaken by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and the Environment Agency. GDA is a voluntary process that allows regulators to begin consideration of the generic safety, security and environmental aspects of designs for NPPs prior to applications for site-specific licence and planning consents.

For new nuclear build, Section 45 of the Energy Act 2008 requires prospective nuclear operators to submit a Funded Decommissioning Programme (FDP) for approval by the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (DECC). DECC published final FDP statutory guidance in December 2011 to assist operators to develop their programmes.

The government received an FDP submission from NNBG in March 2012. Discussions with NNBGenco are continuing and are expected to be concluded later in 2013.

Regulating new build

The process for licensing of nuclear installations for new nuclear power reactors in the UK is outlined in ONR document "Licensing nuclear installations" published in June 2012. The document addresses:

It provides basic regulatory information and links to other reference documents that potential licensees need to be aware of.

Waste management policy

The Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (MRWS) White Paper, published in 2008, set out a framework for implementing geological disposal of UK higher activity radioactive waste through working in partnership with communities potentially willing to host a facility. Publication was coupled with an invitation to communities to express an interest in entering discussions about the siting process to host such a facility. At the appropriate time the stored waste in England and Wales will be transported to, and disposed of in, a geological disposal facility (GDF).

Government received three "expressions of interest" (Copeland and Allerdale Borough Councils and Cumbria County Council) for the areas of Allerdale and Copeland. These three local authorities brought together a wide range of representative local bodies to form the West Cumbria MRWS Partnership, funded by the UK government, which ran an extensive programme of local engagement in order to inform the local authorities' decisions on whether or not to participate in the next stage of the MRWS process. The UK government, Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and the regulators (the Environment Agency and the ONR) supported the partnership by providing papers, presentations and advice, commenting on matters within their remits, and participating in public events.

The partnership produced its final report in July 2012. The Councils were due to make decisions about entering the next stage of the siting process in October 2012, but delayed their decisions until 2013 in order to obtain more information from government.

The organisation to deliver the GDF in the UK is now part of the NDA and is known as the Radioactive Waste Management Directorate (RWMD). The RWMD are continuing to do work on standards for the conditioning and packaging of radioactive waste for long-term management.

The Scottish government's policy is for the long-term management of higher activity radioactive waste in near-surface facilities. Waste managers and site operators in Scotland will need to comply with this policy and reflect it in their forward planning assumptions.

Management of solid low-level radioactive waste (LLW)

UK policy for the long-term management of solid LLW (published in 2007) covers all aspects of the generation, management and regulation of solid LLW and applies to waste producers and managers, NDA, regulatory bodies, Food Standards Agency, waste disposal facility operators, regional planning bodies and planning authorities.

The NDA is responsible for maintaining and implementing the UK's national strategy dealing with solid LLW from the nuclear industry (published in 2010). The strategy targets the better application of the waste hierarchy to reduce the amount of solid LLW generated and hence reduce the reliance on disposal.

Source: Nuclear Energy Data 2013

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Last reviewed: 11 December 2013