Nuclear power in the United Kingdom

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Nuclear power in the United Kingdom generated 16.1% of the country's electricity in 2020.[1] As of March 2022, the UK has 11 operational nuclear reactors at five locations (10 advanced gas-cooled reactors (AGR) and one pressurised water reactor (PWR)), producing 6.8 GWe.[2] It also has nuclear reprocessing plants at Sellafield and the Tails Management Facility (TMF) operated by Urenco in Capenhurst.

The United Kingdom established the world's first civil nuclear programme,[3] opening a nuclear power station, Calder Hall at Windscale, England, in 1956. The British installed base of nuclear reactors used to be dominated by domestically developed Magnox and their successor AGR reactors with graphite moderator and CO2 coolant but the last of those are nearing the end of their useful life and will be replaced with "international" pressurised water reactors. At the peak in 1997, 26% of the nation's electricity was generated from nuclear power. Since then several reactors have closed and by 2012 the share had declined to 19%.[4] The older AGR reactors have been life-extended,[5][6] but they are now towards the end of their life.

In October 2010, the Cameron–Clegg coalition gave permission for private suppliers to construct up to eight new nuclear power plants.[7] The Scottish Government, with the backing of the Scottish Parliament, has stated that no new nuclear power stations will be constructed in Scotland.[8][9] E.ON UK, RWE npower and Horizon Nuclear Power have been pulling out of their initial plans for developing new nuclear power plants, placing the future of nuclear power in the UK in some doubt. Despite this, EDF Energy is still planning to build four new reactors at two sites, with construction ongoing at Hinkley Point in Somerset.[10][11]

In light of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, the government of Boris Johnson has announced a renewed commitment to nuclear power, using the EPR and potentially other PWR designs as well as yet-to-be-developed small modular reactors in a push towards energy independence and decarbonisation while replacing the ageing AGR reactors and phasing out gas and coal for electricity generation. While there is a de facto nuclear power phaseout underway in Scotland and there are plans to replace existing reactors with newly-built ones in England and Wales (sometimes using existing sites for the new reactors), no nuclear power plant has ever been built or planned in Northern Ireland.

EDF Energy owns and manages the five currently operating and two de-fuelling reactor sites.[12] Six new plants are proposed to be built in the next few decades. All nuclear installations in the UK are overseen by the Office for Nuclear Regulation.

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