The UK’s nuclear fleet recorded a 12% drop in contributions to the country’s energy mix in January, raising questions over how long its ageing fleet can continue to operate.
The temporary closure of two of the UK’s eight nuclear plants resulted in nuclear generation dropping by over 10% in January compared to that of last year.
The UK’s nuclear construction programme has come under increasing pressure following Hitachi’s decision to halt work on an Anglesey plant, earlier this year.
Meanwhile, its existing fleet has also faced scrutiny over safety checks and engineering works running over-schedule. Seven of the nuclear plants were built with an advanced gas reactor (AGR) and are facing the end of their lifespan, with all nuclear stations expected to close in 2025.
Iain Staffell, lecturer in sustainable energy at Imperial College, said: “Just as Toshiba and Hitachi have pulled out of building new reactors, we have one third of the existing nuclear capacity unavailable either for maintenance or because their maximum power has been reduced as they get older.
“Many of our reactors were built in the late 70s, and like your typical 40-year-old they aren’t in peak physical condition anymore.”
Following Hitachi’s decision, Hinkley Point power plant in Somerset will be the only new UK nuclear reactor under construction and, with the UK’s ageing fleet, will prove to be a blow to the country’s move away from its reliance on coal to provide a reliable baseload of energy.