RSC president warns UK not to shut down nuclear industry

The president of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) has warned the UK government not to follow Germany and shut down its entire nuclear industry. The UK has 19 reactors at nine locations producing an average of just less than 1.2GW per location.

Prof David Phillips said if the UK was to replace its nuclear power stations with either offshore or onshore wind turbines, a huge number of turbines would have to be built.

’One nuclear power station produces roughly 1.2GW compared with the roughly 3MW produced by one offshore turbine. Therefore 400 offshore wind turbines are needed to produce the same power but, as those turbines will not operate 100 per cent of the time, you would realistically need up to 1,200 offshore wind turbines to replicate the power generated at a single nuclear power station.’

Due to the corrosive effects of sea water, it is far more likely onshore wind farm projects will be considered to save costs. As offshore wind turbines produce 50 per cent more power than onshore, hundreds more onshore turbines would be required to ensure energy demand is met.

’To replace current UK nuclear output of 10.5GW with onshore wind, at 2MW per turbine and a power per unit area of 2W/m2, you would have to find an area the size of 750,000 football pitches,’ said Prof Phillips.

’If the UK was to follow Germany and shut down its entire nuclear industry, we would presumably be looking solely at renewables to meet the shortfall. If you attempted to replace UK power stations with wind farms, for example, then an area the size of Oxfordshire and Derbyshire combined would be needed to locate them. The Royal Society of Chemistry believes there has to be a balance to meet our medium-term energy challenges.’

Nuclear energy has been identified by the RSC as being a core component of the energy mix for the UK in order for the country to meet its commitments to reduce carbon emissions. The RSC believes nuclear energy generation is a critical medium-term solution. The technical challenge is for the safe and efficient harnessing of nuclear energy, exploring both fission and fusion technologies.