Bill Lee, Bangor University and Michael Rushton, Bangor University. The Committee on Climate Change advises the UK government on the effort to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Its proposals are strangely silent on nuclear power, occasionally lumping it in with “other low-carbon generation”. It supports a massive increase in renewable energy generation and continued burning of natural gas, using carbon capture and storage technology to mop up the CO₂ emitted. Elsewhere, the plan is to electrify transport, heating and industrial processes, meaning batteries in cars, and heat pumps powered by electricity in homes and factories. While plans are afoot to make “green hydrogen” the new lifeblood of the economy, producing enough of the low-carbon fuel would take a lot of electricity. Can renewables generate enough to do that while having enough left over for the surge in electricity demand elsewhere? Simply put, we need to start rebuilding the UK’s capacity to generate nuclear power. Future nuclear reactors will not just be big kettles making steam to drive turbines that generate electricity. The heat produced during the nuclear reaction can be diverted to power processes that are currently difficult to decarbonise. We don’t believe that reaching net-zero emissions within the time we have left is possible without building new nuclear reactors. Fortunately, the new models awaiting construction can do so much more than just generate electricity.
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