Why Net Zero Needs Nuclear UK

Achieving net zero is undoubtedly one of the United Kingdom’s most significant environmental challenges, and it is imperative that we tackle it expeditiously. Net zero needs nuclear for a wide variety of reasons which is what this article will discuss.

While renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and hydropower have emerged as frontrunners in this endeavour, there has been a compelling argument that relying solely on these sources may not suffice. This is where nuclear power comes into play—a contentious method of generating electricity that has experienced fluctuating levels of popularity since the construction of the first nuclear power station in 1951.

Our comprehensive investigation sheds light on why nuclear power is indispensable for achieving net zero in the UK. We explore the advantages and disadvantages associated with nuclear energy, the existing capacity of nuclear power in the UK, the challenges it faces, and the utilisation of nuclear power by other European nations.

What is the Meaning of ‘Net Zero’?

‘Net zero’ does not imply a complete absence of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Rather, it represents a situation where any emissions generated by the UK are counterbalanced by the use of renewable energy sources and other forms of energy.

Therefore, in a net zero scenario for the UK, there would still be emissions stemming from certain fossil fuel sources. However, these emissions would be entirely compensated for by the implementation of carbon-free or low-carbon technologies, such as solar farms and wind turbines.

Why Net Zero Needs Nuclear

In the pursuit of achieving net zero, nuclear power holds significant importance when combined with a diverse range of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power. While not classified as a renewable energy source, nuclear power plants have a distinct advantage in that they produce minimal greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The process of nuclear fission, employed in nuclear reactors, involves the splitting of atoms to release energy, which in turn generates steam to power turbines and produce electricity. The resulting steam is then safely released into the atmosphere without causing harm. Since its inception in 1951, nuclear fission has been the primary method of harnessing nuclear power, utilizing radioactive materials to generate electricity. Nuclear fusion, an alternative approach where atoms are fused to release immense energy, is still under development and not yet commercially viable.

By incorporating nuclear power into the energy mix, the UK can leverage its low GHG emissions and contribute significantly to the net zero goal.

The Pros & Cons of Nuclear Power


  • Low-carbon electricity: Nuclear power is a low-carbon energy source, meaning it produces minimal greenhouse gas emissions during operation. This attribute makes it a valuable component in achieving net zero goals and combating climate change.
  • Efficient land use: Nuclear power plants require relatively small land areas compared to many other forms of energy generation, such as large-scale solar or wind farms. This efficiency in land use allows for greater flexibility in locating nuclear power facilities..
  • High power output: Nuclear power plants have the capacity to generate a significant amount of electricity. They provide a high power output, contributing to the overall energy supply and helping meet the demand for electricity in an efficient manner.
  • Reliable power generation: Nuclear power offers a reliable and consistent source of electricity. Unlike some renewable energy sources that are intermittent and dependent on weather conditions, nuclear power plants can operate continuously, providing a stable power output throughout the year.


  • Non-renewable radioactive materials: Nuclear power relies on the availability of radioactive materials such as uranium, which are finite resources.
  • High upfront costs: Building nuclear power plants requires a significant upfront investment. The construction and commissioning of nuclear facilities involve substantial costs, including the implementation of safety measures and regulatory compliance.
  • Nuclear waste management: One of the major concerns associated with nuclear power is the disposal of radioactive waste generated by nuclear reactors. Proper handling and disposal of nuclear waste are crucial to ensure long-term safety and prevent any adverse environmental or health impacts.
  • Potential for catastrophic incidents: Although nuclear power plants are designed with stringent safety measures, the risk of accidents or malfunctions cannot be completely eliminated.


In summary, nuclear power remains a crucial component of the UK’s transition away from fossil fuels, despite opposition and the time required to establish operational reactors. While nuclear fusion is still a distant goal, its potential for providing large-scale, clean electricity is promising. Nuclear power offers the advantage of generating significant power output while occupying less land space compared to wind and solar energy. As the UK continues its journey towards net zero, nuclear power’s contributions will be significant in meeting clean energy demands efficiently.