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What Are The Advantages Of Nuclear Power? | EDF

What are the advantages of nuclear energy?

By Marta Moses | Posted July 28, 2020

The turbine hall at our nuclear power station Sizewell B in Suffolk.

The top five advantages of nuclear energy:

  • It’s a low-carbon energy source
  • It has a small carbon footprint compared to alternatives like fossil fuels
  • It’s key to combating climate change and reaching net zero
  • It’s safe and reliable – providing us with power whatever the weather
  • Countries that use nuclear and renewable energy together are the most successful at combating climate change

Why do we use nuclear energy

In the UK and many other countries worldwide, there’s a huge increasing demand for energy. We need to keep powering our homes, workplaces, and cities – but we also need to make sure we’re being responsible for the planet and protecting it for generations to come. Nuclear power is a low-carbon energy source that’s reliable, so it’s part of the solution for providing us with a long-term energy source that can meet our demand for energy while also keeping carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions low.

A low-carbon energy source

Although nuclear power stations take considerable investment to build, they last a long time and don't cost a lot to run compared to other types of energy sources. This means they're cost-effective in the long run. Most of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions associated with nuclear power stations happen during construction and fuel processing, not when electricity is being generated.

How we produce nuclear energy

Nuclear energy

The dry fuel storage at our nuclear power station Sizewell B

It’s all about chemistry. Nuclear energy is generated when we split uranium atoms in a process known as nuclear fission. We do this by conducting the reaction inside reactor vessels which are big, tough steel capsules with fuel rods inside.

When a neutron hits a uranium atom, the atom splits and releases two or three more neutrons, which produces heat.

We then add water that becomes so heated it creates steam. The steam then powers a turbine and causes it to spin which produces mechanical energy, we convert that into electrical energy and that’s what feeds into our National Grid.

A single uranium fuel pellet – which is about the size of a peanut – can produce as much energy as 800kg of coal. This makes nuclear a much more efficient, low-carbon alternative to using fossil fuels.

Discover more about the nuclear fission process by shrinking to the size of an atom in this 360 tour inside a nuclear reactor!

A long-term, low-carbon, reliable energy solution

Nuclear energy can help meet our country's demands for energy because it’s reliable whatever the weather. Uranium is a raw material that's widely available, which makes nuclear power is a long-term, low-carbon solution. In the UK, the existing network of nuclear reactors produces 20% of our total electricity and has been running safely for more than 60 years.

Nuclear supports net zero

To achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050 (which is known as net-zero) we need to quadruple low-carbon power generation. Renewable sources of energy like wind and solar rely on the weather, so as well as these amazing technologies, we also need reliable sources like nuclear that is not weather dependent in order to keep the lights on. Because there are currently 444 commercial nuclear reactors operating around the world(3), we know nuclear energy is a great solution for power at a large scale, and the technology can help maintain the stability of our electricity grid.

Nuclear energy is safe

Safety is at the heart of everything we do. In our 42 year operating history, there has never been an incident involving the release of radiation offsite from any of our UK nuclear power stations. Nuclear power is one of the most highly regulated industries. In the UK, the industry is regulated by the Independent Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Environment Agency or the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).

EDF's experience with nuclear energy

We're part of the EDF Group – with 58 nuclear reactors in France and a total of 78 reactors across the world. In France, EDF Energy has 50 years' experience in the design, maintenance, operation and decommissioning of nuclear plants. Nuclear energy has a strong safety record. A mixture of safety regulations, technology, and lessons learned from historical accidents means the risk of future accidents is low. The probability of a large radiological release at a new nuclear power station is extremely remote, and we at EDF are committed to maintaining that strong safety record.

Want to become even more of an expert in nuclear energy?

Watch Wes Nelson and Dr. Alex George’s Electric Adventure where they drive an all-electric Tesla Model X and go on a tour inside our Sizewell B power station!

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