Study: New U.K. nuclear likely to be lower carbon source than solar or wind

November 30, 2021, 9:30AMANS Nuclear Cafe

A recent study of life cycle carbon emissions at the United Kingdom’s Hinkley Point C nuclear plant finds that the facility, now under construction in Somerset, England, is likely to produce less CO2 over its lifetime than either solar or wind power.

According to the 70-page analysis—prepared by environmental consultancy Ricardo Energy & Environment for NNB Generation Company HPC Limited, the holding company for the Hinkley Point project—lifetime emissions from Hinkley Point C are likely to be about 5.5g CO2e per kWh. That amount also holds for the proposed Sizewell C plant, the study concludes. (The two 1,630-MWe EPRs at Hinkley Point C are currently scheduled to begin commercial operation in 2026 and 2027.)

By comparison, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s median estimate for offshore wind is around 12g CO2e per kWh and 48g CO2e per kWh for large-scale solar energy. All are dramatically lower than coal, at 820g CO2e per kWh, and gas, at 490g CO2e per kWh.

“This detailed study confirms the low-carbon credentials of new nuclear at Hinkley Point and Sizewell,” said Humphrey Cadoux-Hudson, managing director of the Sizewell C project for EDF Energy. “By replacing fossil fuel power with low-carbon electricity, which doesn’t depend on the weather, Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C will support the expansion of renewables in the U.K. and make a big contribution to lowering emissions to net zero.”

For the skeptics: The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe recently published the comprehensive report, Life Cycle Assessment of Electricity Generation Options, which concludes that nuclear technology as a whole has the lowest life cycle carbon intensity of any electricity source, ranging from 5.1g to 6.4g CO2e per kWh.

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