The Royal Academy of Engineering, representing the UK’s leading engineers, welcomes the Government’s decision to open the way for a new generation of nuclear power stations as part of the balanced energy mix needed to tackle climate change and provide secure long term energy supplies.

The problem of delivering clean energy reliably requires new engineering solutions within a policy and economic framework that will encourage timely investment enabled by appropriate government intervention, which we are seeing in progress this week.

Nuclear power is a proven low-carbon source of energy that is capable of delivering on a large scale. Ample experience exists to demonstrate that a modern nuclear power station can be built to schedule at predictable costs subject to timely planning approval and licensing.

Clearly there are hurdles to be overcome, notably those relating to public perception and setting the right environment for private investment but these issues have to be grasped if we are to have a low-carbon future.

Philip Greenish, Chief Executive of The Royal Academy of Engineering, says “Nuclear power is just one important part of the energy mix – all the available new and improved technologies at our disposal are essential to address the twin issues of climate change and security of supply. The critical clusters of technologies for clean energy supply are nuclear, carbon capture and storage, energy efficiency (including low-energy buildings and vehicles), renewables and energy storage. We need ALL of these including new nuclear build – it is not a matter of choice.”

“Targets for CO2 emissions reductions have been set nationally and internationally. These are framed as a percentage reduction in emissions, but the aim is to limit the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere (at 550 or 450 ppm – currently about 350 ppm). In order to achieve the CO2 stabilization levels, it is crucial that the rate of increase is slowed, which means small, early reductions are worth as much as late massive reductions. This emphasises the urgency of moving ahead with new nuclear build without delay.”

Managing nuclear waste remains an important challenge, particularly in the UK with a 60-year legacy of waste from both civil and military applications. The nuclear waste created by a modern LWR is about 10 per cent of that from one of our old gas-cooled reactors in terms of volume. International experience, notably in Finland, shows that deep underground storage appears the best option.

Notes for editors

  1. Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship – comprising the UK’s most eminent engineers – provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain’s engineering community.

For more information please contact

Jane Sutton at The Royal Academy of Engineering
Tel. 020 7766 0636