Nuclear’s share of UK capacity has fallen for 23 years

Nuclear power’s share of total UK energy capacity has been falling for 23 years. That’s according to a new report from the UK Government, which says its capacity share rose […]

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By Jonny Bairstow

Nuclear power’s share of total UK energy capacity has been falling for 23 years.

That’s according to a new report from the UK Government, which says its capacity share rose from 0.9% (220MW) in 1956 to 17% (12.7GW) at its peak in 1994.

By the end of 2016 this figure had fallen to 9.3GW, only 9% of installed capacity.

However, nuclear’s share of generation through 2016 was 21%, greater than installed capacity might indicate.

This is because nuclear power plants spend more time in operation than other forms of generation – its load factor was 77% last year.

This compares to provisional average load factors of 46% for gas-fired generation, 22% for coal, 24% for onshore wind, 37% for offshore wind and 11% for solar.

The opening of the 3.2GW plant Hinkley Point C in 2023 is expected to boost the share until existing capacity closes.

Hinkley Point C is currently the only approved nuclear power station with an operating date beyond 2035.

Energy Minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe believes the facility could signal “the start of a nuclear renaissance”.

The UK’s nuclear fleet has recently secured a £125m support deal.

A reactor designed by Toshiba’s nuclear unit has been approved by UK regulators.