The UK grid has relied on nuclear reactors that would have retired years ago without extra investment from EDF to keep the lights on during the current cold snap, according to analysis by the Nuclear Industry Association.

Margins on the grid this evening were projected to be less than 2.5 GW according to LCP Enact, with more than 3.3 GW of generation being supplied by the Advanced Gas-Cooled Reactors (AGRs) at Heysham in Lancashire, Hartlepool on Teesside, and Torness in East Lothian. These stations provided enough clean, sovereign baseload power for approximately 6 million homes.

The UK grid is under more pressure than at any time so far this winter because of the cold, with gas and coal providing the majority of UK generation, while nuclear has been the leading source of clean power.

National Grid has estimated the margins on the grid this winter would be 4.4 GW, its Winter Outlook for 2023/24, less than the 4.7 GW of generating capacity provided by the UK’s four AGR stations.

When EDF took over British Energy almost 15 years ago, the Heysham I (1.06 GW), Hartlepool (1.185 GW), Heysham II (1.24 GW) and Torness (1.2 GW) reactors were all due to have retired by 2023.

EDF has invested £7 billion in the UK’s existing nuclear fleet since it acquired them and obtained 30% higher output than anticipated at acquisition. This extra output, over 200 TWh, has saved approximately 74 million tonnes of CO2 emissions and displaced 48 billion cubic metres of gas use.

Chief Executive of the Nuclear Industry Association Tom Greatrex said:

‘When margins are tight, it is nuclear that keeps the grid running. With demand high and the temperature low, nuclear keeps generating when we need it, cutting carbon, cutting gas, and cutting bills. EDF’s investment in our fleet has been vital for our energy system as a whole.

“To preserve the critical contribution that nuclear has made to energy security for decades, we need to plan and finance a new fleet of stations to replace what we are going to lose this decade.”


Notes to Editors

  1. The UK’s existing nuclear fleet have produced more clean electricity, over 2000 TWh, and thus saved more carbon emission for the UK than any other power source.
  2. The UK’s nuclear power stations also have the highest reliability, as measured by load factor, of any electricity generating source, according to the Digest of UK Energy Statistics 2023.

About the NIA
The NIA is the trade body of the UK civil nuclear industry, representing more than 270 companies operating across the sector.

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For further information, please contact:
Lincoln Hill, Director of Policy and External Affairs
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