Nuclear power is the second-largest source of low-carbon electricity today, supplying 10% of global electricity

Nuclear power is generated by a controlled chain reaction inside a nuclear reactor, most commonly in a process called nuclear fission. In fission, neutrons collide with uranium or plutonium atoms, causing the atoms to split and release additional neutrons and energy in the form of heat. This heat is used to convert water into steam, which drives turbines to produce electricity. A nuclear reactor was first used to produce electricity in the 1950s, in light of discoveries made through research efforts previously focused on developing nuclear weaponry. A series of commercial reactors for electricity production have since been developed. Today, nuclear power is gaining importance driven by the climate change agenda since it emits minimal greenhouse gases, at levels similar to renewable energy in terms of total life cycle emissions per unit of energy generated. Nuclear power projects are heavily dependent on government policy due to their capital-intensive nature, and are strictly regulated as they deal with radioactive materials.  

Nuclear power is controversial in some locations due to these radioactive materials and the potential health hazards they pose. A number of destructive accidents have occurred in the history of nuclear power; these include the Chernobyl disaster in the Soviet Union in 1986 and the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011. Different nations have widely different visions for the deployment of nuclear power, ranging from France’s 75% dependence on nuclear power for electricity generation to Germany having announced decision to shut down all of its nuclear power plants by 2022. Another important aspect is the disposal of nuclear waste; spent fuel remains active for tens of thousands of years and a proven long-term solution for safely managing and disposing of this radioactive waste is yet to be developed. Although newer, safer and more efficient reactor designs are being constructed today, nuclear power has an uncertain future challenged by public acceptance, costs, fuel resource sustainability and nuclear waste management.

As a potentially safer and less waste-generating type of reaction than fission, nuclear fusion is an ongoing area of research. Several experimental reactors exist, but commercial-scale results remain far from realisation. Small modular reactors are also attracting interest, as they allow for greater flexibility with potential benefits particularly for developing countries with limited grid capacity.

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What's new?

UK includes new nuclear in 'green industrial revolution'

18-11-2020
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has unveiled a 10-point plan that he says can be "a global template" for delivering net-zero emissions. Point 3 of the plan is the government's commitment to develop new nuclear power, from large-scale to small and advanced modular reactors. This includes investment o...

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New nuclear 'the most efficient way' to decarbonise grids, NNWI report finds

22-10-2020
A new report published today by New Nuclear Watch Institute (NNWI) concludes that new nuclear build is the most efficient way to achieve decarbonisation of the electricity grid, being able to reduce system carbon intensity by up to 34% per megawatt of installed capacity compared to intermittent rene...

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Fate of Iran nuclear deal hinges on US election, says Raab

7-10-2020
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) is unlikely to be improved or replaced before the US president is sworn in early next year, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said yesterday. Raab was responding to questions from the House of Commons foreign affairs select committee in a session held t...

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Global nuclear generation climbs steadily, mainly in Asia

28-09-2020
Global nuclear power generation reached a near-record high in 2019, with output reaching 2,657 TWh, according to the World Nuclear Association Performance Report 2020, published by the industry’s trade association. The total, which has climbed steadily for the last eight years and is now second to t...

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Hitachi pulls out of the Wylfa nuclear power station project

26-09-2020
Japan’s Hitachi is to end its involvement in the Horizon Project to develop a nuclear power station at Wylfa Newydd in Anglesey, North- West Wales, having first suspended its work on the project in January 2019 to give time for the UK government to decide on a financing structure. The company says ...

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Events and training

EI LIVE | Ageing and Life Extension of Offshore Structures for Oil, Gas and Wind Energy

29-03-2021
This on-line course, delivered over four half days, will give you an understanding for managing ageing and life extension of structures for offshore oil and gas installations and wind turbines.

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Introduction to Process Safety Management - October 2021

27-10-2021
This 3-day course is based on the renowned Energy Institute High level framework for process safety management - a comprehensive process safety management framework which captures industry good practice in process safety management.

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Technical guidance publications

IP PM EO: Determination of Olefin content - High resolution Fourier transform nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy method

2013
ScopeThis method covers the determination olefin content of hydrocarbon oils. These include crude oils, heavy fuel oils, middle distillates: diesels with and without biodiesel (including any contribution from olefins in biodiesel), gasoline: E5 and E2 gasoline and other hydrocarbon mixtures typicall...

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IP 499: Determination of aromatic carbon content of lubricant mineral base oils and middle distillate petroleum fractions - Carbon-13 nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy method

2011
Scope This standard specifies procedures for determining the aromatic carbon content of mineral base oils within the range of 0,6 % mole to 13,8 % mole, and of middle distillates within the range of 1,8 % mole to 41,5 % mole. The standard does not determine the concentration of aromatic carbon in th...

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Nuclear human factors conference papers, held on 16 September 2010

2010
Human factors encompasses what people are being asked to do, who is doing it, and where they are working, all of which is influenced by a wider organisational culture and external influences.There is increasing emphasis on the importance of managing human factors in the workplace to achieve improved...

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IP 392: Determination of aromatic hydrogen and carbon content - High resolution nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy method

1990
ScopeThis method covers the determination of aromatic hydrogen and aromatic carbon contents of hydrocarbon oils. These include kerosines, gas oils, mineral lube oils, coal liquids and other distillates which are completely soluble in chloroform and/or carbon tetrachloride. The detection limit is typ...

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Disposal of nuclear waste at sea

1986
This report was prepared to review current developments and to identify industrial opportunities in the UK in the field of disposal of nuclear waste at sea. The study was carried out by the University of Manchester and was funded by the Science and Engineering Research Council Marine Technology Dire...

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