Nuclear power can bridge a potential energy gap by supplying safe, secure and affordable low-carbon electricity.
Our nuclear strategy
To provide the UK with a secure energy supply, we need a diverse and balanced energy mix, rather than relying too heavily on a small number of energy sources. The UK Government has already committed to increasing the proportion of energy derived from renewable sources to 15% by 2020, which is a positive step towards diversifying our energy mix.
But the intermittency and cost of harnessing some renewable energy sources (such as wind and solar energy) means that we need other sources to supplement them. Nuclear power stations are ideally placed to fulfil this role, as they can generate low-carbon electricity reliably and affordably for many years.
EDF Group owns and operates the world’s largest fleet of civil nuclear power stations, so we have ample experience of the nuclear energy sector to draw on when developing our strategy for nuclear energy in the UK.
The future of new nuclear
EDF Energy proposes to build two new power stations: one at Hinkley Point in Somerset and one at Sizewell in Suffolk, both adjacent to existing sites. The new stations would be latest-generation UK-EPR™ reactors based upon tried and tested pressurised water reactor technology. They would each have a generating capacity of 3.2GW, enough electricity to supply over 5 million homes while avoiding the emission of 9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.
Experience and expertise
As the world's largest nuclear power generator, with a global installed capacity of 72.9GW, EDF Group has extensive experience of building and running nuclear power stations.
In the UK, EDF Energy is the largest producer of low-carbon electricity, and produces around one-fifth of the country’s electricity from its nuclear power stations, wind farms, coal- and gas-powered stations, and combined heat and power plants. The company currently operates 15 nuclear reactors in the UK, with a total installed capacity of just under 8.8GW.
EDF Group has also built up a large nuclear power generation capacity in France, where the company's 58 plants have a total installed capacity of 63.1GW. France is now the second largest generator of nuclear power in the world, after the United States.
EDF Group has significant experience of commissioning, operating and decommissioning nuclear power stations. We understand the finances of building new nuclear power stations and we are confident they can be built, run and (eventually) shut down safely.
The UK has used nuclear power since 1956. During that time there has never been an incident at a civil nuclear power station that has required action to protect the public. Nuclear power stations in the UK operate to extremely high safety standards. The industry is regulated by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), with independent bodies responsible for safety, security, transport, waste and decommissioning.
The remit of the ONR is to provide efficient and effective regulation of the nuclear industry, holding it to account on behalf of the public, while the Environment Agency (EA) and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) oversee the environmental impact of nuclear operations. Nuclear power stations are not allowed to operate without appropriate licences, and operators must demonstrate that they comply with all relevant laws and have plans to cover all site activities – including dealing with any emergency that might arise.
Nuclear vs. other energy sources
EDF Energy recognises the importance of a diverse mix of energy sources to meet UK energy needs and to address climate change, energy affordability and energy security. While we continue to invest in renewable sources of energy such as wind, we believe this diverse mix must include nuclear.
Nuclear power stations can be relied upon to generate at times of peak demand. They offer a wide range of socio-economic benefits to the communities around them and are cost-competitive with all other forms of electricity generation, including renewables.
Modern nuclear plants can run for long periods between closures for maintenance or refuelling. Uranium, the raw material for nuclear fuel, is relatively abundant, stable in supply and inexpensive compared with fossil fuels. As part of a diverse energy mix, nuclear power can help to ensure the UK has a safe, secure and affordable electricity supply for many decades to come.
Is nuclear power safe?
Safety is always our number one priority and one of the core business objectives that inform all EDF Energy operations. Our existing fleet of nuclear power stations is designed to be safe and reliable, with systems at each plant that provide defence in depth through multiple layers of redundancy. A number of different systems perform the same function, so that the safety of the station does not depend on any single feature.
Our primary focus is to ensure nuclear safety through positive control of essential systems, to prevent any radiological release that might threaten the public, plant employees and/or the environment. Potential hazards that could affect the stations – including extreme climatic and geo-physical events such as tsunamis and earthquakes – are also assessed and measures taken to ensure safety.
Teams that work in nuclear power stations assess every aspect of each procedure before starting work, performing according to plans and continually reviewing what they have done. Our training centres also include nuclear power station control room simulators, where engineers and operations staff learn to master the instrumentation.
Our planned new nuclear power stations at Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C will use the UK-EPR™ – a latest-generation pressurised water reactor with multiple safety systems. The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has approved the UK-EPR™ design for operation in the UK, since it has met their high safety standards, which have also been reviewed following events at Fukushima in Japan in 2011.The UK nuclear industry has a strong safety record. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the safety regime the new plants will have to follow is one of the most exacting in the world. The Environment Agency (EA) will also monitor the environmental impact of constructing, operating and decommissioning them.
Where will we build these nuclear power stations?
We plan to build two new power stations: one at Hinkley Point in Somerset, and one at Sizewell in Suffolk. Both sites have been home to nuclear stations for many years – the geography is right, local communities are familiar with nuclear power stations and much of the necessary infrastructure is already in place.
Opportunity for local communities
Creating lasting economic and social benefit for the communities surrounding our new and operational sites is a priority. Each new power station will take a number of years to build and EDF Energy is committed to mitigating the impacts of construction.
Both Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C would provide a substantial boost to UK skills and job creation. During the construction of each station 25,000 job opportunities will be created, with 5,600 people employed on site at the peak of construction.
EDF Energy is committed to enhancing local education and skills provision in the areas in which we operate: at Hinkley Point C, we have invested more than £11 million into the local community. Our commitment ensures that local people are supported in both finding and taking advantage of the opportunities provided by the project.
Opportunities and financial benefit will also extend throughout the supply chain. For example, the Oxford Institute for Sustainable Development has calculated that the Hinkley Point C project could bring £100 million per year into the regional economy during peak construction, and £40 million per year during its planned 60-year operation.