Abandoning nuclear power could drive up UK electricity generation costs by 15 per cent while more than tripling the amount of carbon produced per kWh by the power sector, according to a new report.

The study, published today (27 September) by the New Nuclear Watch Institute (NNWI), examines the consequences if the UK government heeds calls for atomic power to be phased out with natural gas providing a bridge to a future in which generation depends on renewable energy.

The report, entitled “The False Economy of Abandoning Nuclear Power: Techno-Zealotry and the Transition Fuel Narrative”, says an enforced phase out will increase the generation cost of the UK power system from £82/MWh to 95/MWh. This 15 per cent increase would drive up system costs by £3.2 billion per annum, estimates the study.

One of the reasons for the increased cost of gas-fired generation will be “acute upward pressure” from increases in the carbon price, the report predicts.

A failure to replace the UK’s existing but ageing fleet of nuclear power stations would also reduce low carbon technologies’ share of total generation from 87 per cent to 48 per cent in 2030.

This would result in an additional 35.2 million tonnes of CO2 emissions from the power sector, 265 per cent higher than if the deployment of nuclear energy is unconstrained.

And it increases the carbon intensity of the power sector – the ratio of carbon emissions to generation – from 51 gCO2/kWh to 186 gCO2/kWh, according to the report.

The Committee on Climate Change has recommended that the carbon intensity of the UK power system should be below 100 gCO2/kWh by 2030.

The report has been published against a backdrop of growing concern about the cost of new nuclear generation compared to renewable alternatives. The National Infrastructure Commission recently recommended that the plummeting cost of renewable energy means that the UK only requires one more new atomic plant before 2025. 

Tim Yeo, chairman of NNWI, said: “We often hear that new nuclear build is expensive. It turns out that, in fact, if all hidden costs are factored in, abandoning nuclear comes at an even higher price.

“The report’s conclusions are stark. Abandoning nuclear power leads unavoidably to a very big increase in carbon emissions which will prevent Britain from meeting its legally binding climate change commitments.

“The message is clear: if the UK is to successfully meet the challenges faced by its power sector, the world’s only source of low-carbon baseload power generation – nuclear – must feature strongly in its ambitions.”