Nuclear energy's role vital in making UK low-carbon country

14 April 2011

The Fukushima power plant crisis must not derail the move to a low-carbon economy in the UK, the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) said today.

The Government should ensure, the RSC says, that the UK invests in teaching and research in nuclear sciences to support the resurgence of nuclear power needed to meet the energy needs of the country while cutting carbon emissions.

In its roadmap for the chemical sciences, Chemistry for Tomorrow's World, the RSC identifies nuclear energy as a central component of the energy mix for the UK in order for the country to meet its commitments to reduce carbon emissions.

RSC President Professor David Phillips said: "A range of scenarios and roadmaps prepared in the United Kingdom estimate that between 12-38 gigawatts of nuclear capacity will be required if a secure, reliable and low carbon energy system is to be in place in the UK by 2050."

This calculator shows plainly that it will be extremely difficult to meet the emissions reductions espoused by British governments without the use of nuclear power, unless there are major changes to the way people live.

The report from the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment 'A low carbon nuclear future: Economic assessment of nuclear materials and spent nuclear fuel management in the UK' outlined a solution employing metal oxides that can use the current stockpile of nuclear material as a fuel for nuclear power. 

"This technology will enable the UK to be self sufficient in fuel for nuclear power for at least the next 60 years, leading to an improvement in the security of energy supply for the country, and remove some of the issues with dealing with plutonium waste."

In addition the recommendations in the report, if implemented, could lead to a 10 billion boost in the economy of the north-west of the UK, while creating around 45,000 new high tech jobs over the next 20-30 years.

Professor Phillips said: "The chemical sciences have a key role to play in this area, including research in novel methods to reprocess spent nuclear fuel, use of different fuels, and methods to store spent fuel."

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