The World Nuclear Association (WNA) has responded to concerns being expressed in mainstream media about the reliability of EDF’s European Pressurised Reactor (EPR), while also questioning the merits of gas power if new nuclear goes unbuilt.

Dr Jonathan Cobb, Senior Communications Manager at WNA, says while there have been delays in other projects, the technology development is in a more positive state than depicted

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“The first EPR projects in Europe have faced significant delays, but each EPR project has shown major improvements,” Cobb told Power Engineering International. “Flamanville started two years later than Olkiluoto, and the two reactors at Taishan started two years after Flamanville. All four reactors are currently expected to start in 2017 or 2018.”

“In other words the construction times of the latest reactors at Taishan have been cut by four years compared to the first EPR at Olkiluoto.”

“The experience and learning from these prior EPR projects will give EDF much greater certainty over the construction schedule and costs for Hinkley.”

Dr Cobb also believes falling back on gas-fired power generation, if new nuclear projects such as Hinkley Point C were not completed, would represent a retrograde step.

“The UK needs to decarbonise its electricity generation mix to meet its carbon reduction obligations. Without the reliable supply from nuclear power plants the generation mix will become more reliant on gas. Some describe gas as a bridge, as a fossil fuel it is a bridge to nowhere.”

“Increased reliance on gas also raises concerns over security of supply. The 18GWe of planned new nuclear build will meet more than a third of the UK’s generation needs. Renewables and energy efficiency have an enormous part to play in meeting the rest of those needs. Some gas will be required, but as energy storage and SMR technologies are developed we can minimise that requirement.”

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