What is the Future of Nuclear Power?
Arun Micro > 2015 > November

What is the Future of Nuclear Power?

Despite countries such as Germany phasing out their nuclear power programme, the use of nuclear power worldwide is growing faster than ever.  China is currently building 27 new reactors and plans to build 200 more, to meet  the rapidly growing demand for electricity, which is expected to triple by 2050.

In the UK, we face similar challenges, as well as a demanding carbon reduction target set by the European Union.  Minister of Energy and Climate Change, Andrea Leadsome, recently made it clear that the Government is supporting new nuclear power initiatives such as the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant and the development of Small Modular Reactors. Objection is still strong, however, and cost is a major factor so ongoing experimentation is essential.

Hinkley Point

Hinkley Point has been earmarked as the location for a new nuclear power plant proposed by French electric utility company, EDF.  EDF has stated that, “the next generation of nuclear power stations are intended to generate secure, affordable, low-carbon electricity over their 60-year lifetimes.”  They claim that their EPR (pressurised water reactor) uses approximately 17% less uranium than existing reactors, which means that less fuel is used per unit of electricity generated, lowering the cost and radio-active waste burden.  EDF claims that the four proposed EPRs in the UK could generate up to 6.4million kW of electricity, enough to supply around 10 million homes.

Small Modular Reactors

Other options for the future of nuclear energy in the UK exist though and Prof Ian Fells, emeritus professor of energy conversion at the Newcastle University, has stated that, “problems continue to dog the Hinkley Point C nuclear station as costs have escalated from £5bn to £24.6bn. It will be much better to build a series of Small Modular Reactors using the British nuclear supply chain.”

Modules are prefabricated in factories and, being more compact than current power plants, can be shipped out to areas which previously would have been unsuitable for nuclear operations.  They can also be used in conjunction with renewable power sources.  Small Modular Reactors are still under development so more research is required but this kind of progress in nuclear power could mean it continues into the future as a low-carbon power generation option.

These kinds of developments in the industry are possible because of radiation resistant equipment made here in the UK.  AML makes stepper motors that can be used in high radiation environments for a large range of nuclear applications.  Call us now on 01903 884141 or email sales@arunmicro.com to find out more.

Nuclear Power to Become Crucial in Achieving the UK’s Carbon Target

The use of nuclear power will always be controversial, but new developments in the industry and the 2008 Climate Change Act, which requires the UK to reduce its carbon emissions by 80% of its 1990 level by 2050, means that politicians are seeing it as a way to help achieve climate change goals.  Although groups, such as Greenpeace, have objected to the increased use of nuclear power, a great deal of research using radiation resistant equipment is taking place worldwide to make nuclear power cheaper, safer and faster to install.  As such, the UK government has big plans for it as part of its climate change strategy.

Government Plans

Minister of Energy and Climate Change, Andrea Leadsome, addressed the Nuclear Industry Association conference in June saying, “Your industry is key to delivering our vision of the clean, affordable, safe and reliable energy British consumers and businesses need and vital to keeping the lights on in the decades ahead.”  She continued, “Nuclear power is also one of the cheaper forms of low carbon electricity...emitting similar levels of CO2 to renewables over the life of the plant.”  Her department is keen to exploit these benefits and plans to change legislation to make it easier for new nuclear power stations to be built.

Objections

Greenpeace, however, is not so enthusiastic about the expansion of nuclear power and lists the following concerns as reasons why it should be halted:

  • Safety – activists reference Chernobyl
  • Security – nuclear power stations present targets for terrorists
  • Waste Disposal – disposing of nuclear waste is difficult, dangerous and costly
  • Cost – building and running nuclear power plants is extremely expensive
  • Pulling Focus – investment and research into nuclear power could take it away from renewable power sources

Looking Forward

On the other hand, scientists including Prof Ian Fells, emeritus professor of energy conversion at Newcastle University, suggest that new developments, such as the creation of Small Modular Reactors, could overcome many of these concerns.  These plants are much smaller than conventional power stations, can be mostly prefabricated in factories, work alongside renewable power sources, pose far less of a risk of catastrophic accident and present less of a target for terrorism.  As such, they are considerably cheaper, faster and safer than conventional nuclear power plants, they claim.

Whether the future of nuclear power lies in Small Modular Reactors or other new scientific breakthroughs in the industry, research into this area is more important and prevalent than ever.  Stepper motors, which are resistant to radiation, are essential to this research and those made by AML are tried and tested in these environments. To find out more about them call today on 01903 884141 or email sales@arunmicro.com.