Posted in | News | Nuclear Power

Coal Burning Streak Shows Urgent Need for Nuclear Power - NIA

Britain burned coal for electricity for eight consecutive days (3-10 November), according to data published by National Grid, the longest such streak in seven months. Burning gas has been Britain’s leading source of power throughout that time. Fossil fuels together have regularly provided more than 50% of our electricity. The need to start fossil fuel-burning plants has also made power more expensive, with auction prices reaching as high as £192.50/MWh on Thursday 5 November.

Gas and coal are the most carbon intensive and environmentally damaging fuels used to power the UK grid, but their use has escalated significantly in recent weeks when renewable output has dipped. Only the constant operation of the nuclear fleet has prevented even higher fossil fuel use. From 4-10 November, nuclear was the leading source of zero carbon power each day. Since nuclear power is always available, it is the alternative to gas and coal when weather conditions are unfavourable.

Most of the UK nuclear fleet, however, is due to retire by 2030. International experience has shown that when this nuclear capacity moves offline, it is replaced by burning fossil fuels, unless new nuclear capacity is created.

Germany, for instance, is the largest consumer of coal in the EU, in part because it is retiring its nuclear fleet by 2022 and cannot replace its always-on generation with renewable sources. This week, Germany has utilised more than 30 GW of coal-burning capacity at times.

Climate think tank Ember forecast this week that Germany will have the fourth dirtiest grid in the EU and be the largest carbon emitter in the EU by 2030. It will emit around ten times as much as France, which relies on nuclear power for most of its electricity.

Tom Greatrex, Chief Executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, said:

“Our dependence on burning fossil fuels highlights the urgency of investing in new nuclear capacity, to secure reliable, always-on, emissions-free power, alongside other zero-carbon sources, which have variable output. As the days get colder and darker, we will only burn more gas and coal, and pay more for the privilege.

“If we do not build new nuclear capacity, we will keep burning fossil fuels, and fall further from our climate goals. I hope the Government will look at what has happened internationally, and use the White Paper to set out a pathway for progressing the nuclear projects in the pipeline. We need new nuclear to get to net zero, and we need to start now.”

The Committee on Climate Change has estimated that the UK will need to generate four times as much clean power by 2050 to meet the legal target of net zero emissions, and has recommended that 38% of our power should come from firm sources, that are always available and do not depend on weather conditions. Nuclear is the only source of firm power in the UK proven at scale.


Tell Us What You Think

Do you have a review, update or anything you would like to add to this news story?

Leave your feedback
Your comment type

While we only use edited and approved content for Azthena answers, it may on occasions provide incorrect responses. Please confirm any data provided with the related suppliers or authors. We do not provide medical advice, if you search for medical information you must always consult a medical professional before acting on any information provided.

Your questions, but not your email details will be shared with OpenAI and retained for 30 days in accordance with their privacy principles.

Please do not ask questions that use sensitive or confidential information.

Read the full Terms & Conditions.