Nuclear Power Stations in the UK: how many are there?

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Where are the nuclear power stations in the UK? And why have there been so few built in the past 30 years? Here we’ll look at everything you need to know about our nuclear power stations in the UK.

Last update: November 2020

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Nuclear Power Stations UK

Ever since the mid 1950s, the UK has enjoyed a long history of pioneering nuclear power generation. Although there have been numerous nuclear power plants decommissioned in the past couple of decades (including the first ever plant in the UK— Calder hall in Cumbria, which was decommissioned in 2002) nuclear power still has a strong presence. With a number of nuclear power stations in the UK still active, nuclear power accounts for 11.9% of our energy fuel mix according to data from industry watchdog Ofgem.

How many nuclear power stations are there in the UK?

At present there are 7 nuclear power stations remaining across the UK. All of these power stations are situated on the coastline. This is because nuclear reactors need access to large quantities of water to keep the core at a stable temperature. Water is also used to generate steam to drive a turbine which in turn powers the generator.

These 7 remaining powerplants are all located in England and Scotland. The last two power plants in Wales were decommissioned between 1991 and 2015. Indeed, 11 nuclear power plants were closed across the UK between 2003 and 2015. These last two were Wylfa in Anglesey (closed in 2015) and Trawsfynydd in Gwynedd, the UK’s only inland nuclear power station (decommissioned in 1991).

A list of the last 7 nuclear power stations in the England is as follows:

  • Hinkley Point in Somerset
  • Dungeness in Sussex
  • Sizewell in Suffolk
  • Heysham in Lancashire
  • Hartlepool in County Durham

The last two remaining in Scotland are:

  • Torness in Dunbar
  • Hunterston in West Kilbride

Are UK nuclear power stations safe?

When many of us think of nuclear power stations, our thoughts turn to ill-fated power stations overseas like Chernobyl and Fukushima. Or perhaps our own nuclear disaster at Windscale in 1957 where a fire led to a radiation leak that caused 240 resulting cancer fatalities.

However, the UK has been without serious nuclear incidents ever since that fateful event.

Today’s nuclear power plants have a range of redundancies put in place specifically to prevent the systemic and human errors that led to tragedies like Chernobyl.

Today’s nuclear reactors also have a range of safety features including “core catcher” systems that can contain the reactor core in the unthinkable event of a meltdown.

Today’s reactors are also more fuel efficient, producing less excess heat, while passive cooling systems ensure that even if the station loses access to external energy, safety features are not compromised.

Nuclear Power Stations

New nuclear power plants? The troubled story of Hinkley Point C

Readers may wonder why there are no new nuclear power stations in the UK. However, there is one that should finish completion by the close of 2020.

Hinkley Point C promises to be the first of 8 new nuclear power stations that are safer and more efficient than ever. In an age where renewables (and especially wind power) are hailed as the future of UK energy, projects like Hinkley Point C could prove the shot in the arm that the UK nuclear power sector needs.

However, the project has something of a dark side. At the time of writing, the project is at least 2 years behind schedule, with costs exceeding original projections by as much as 200%. What’s more, reports of environmental impact and even worker suicides have darkened the project’s reputation.

These issues are likely to be borne by consumers for years to come as they impact wholesale energy costs which in turn influence energy consumers’ bills.

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Nuclear power stations UK FAQs

How many nuclear power plants are in the UK?

At the time of writing there are 7 active nuclear power plants in the UK, with one on the way— Hinkley Point C in Somerset.

Where are the nuclear power stations on the map?

From south to north, the nuclear power stations in the UK are

  • Hinkley Point in Somerset
  • Dungeness in Sussex
  • Sizewell in Suffolk
  • Heysham in Lancashire
  • Hartlepool in County Durham
  • Hunterston in West Kilbride
  • Torness in Dunbar

What is Sellafield Ltd?

Sellafield Ltd. is not a nuclear power plant but a processing facility for domestic and international nuclear waste. The site was the subject of some controversy in 2005 when 80,000 litres of radioactive waste leaked out of a pipe. Miraculously, no radioactivity was released into the surrounding environment. Sellafield also provide nuclear storage and decommissioning services.

Is nuclear energy renewable?

Although nuclear energy is low-carbon it is not a renewable form of energy. Radioactive waste is generated as part of the energy generation process and this needs to be stored safely until the radiation within it dies. A process that can take tens of thousands of years. Furthermore, nuclear power stations rely on expendable nuclear fuels like uranium. And while these are fairly bountiful (enough to last around 230 years), they are nonetheless finite.

To read more on this topic, check out these guides:

Redactor

Written by eleanor

Updated on 25 Nov, 2020

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