Characterising the role of diverse nuclear technologies for a Zero Carbon UK

Student thesis: Phd


If UK commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement are to be met, the UK will have to undergo extremely rapid and comprehensive decarbonisation – especially within the energy sector. Achieving this will require construction of very large quantities of zero-carbon generating plant, substantial retrofit of downstream components of the energy system and the deployment of recently developed technologies. As a well-proven source of bulk, very low carbon, electricity and heat, nuclear power is conceptually well placed to play a major role in such a transition to a zero carbon energy system. However no large scale construction of nuclear generating plant has occurred in the UK for several decades, and it is unclear whether the UK retains sufficient industrial capacity to pursue such a programme – especially if global construction renders imports of material and expertise more difficult. This thesis investigates likely industrial constraints in the construction of very large quantities of nuclear plant in the UK. It uses two selected exemplar reactor technologies as lenses to examine the problem. No attempt to is made to choose between the technologies or discuss the desirability of such a programme, but problems that might be faced in implementation and possible opportunities to overcome these are discussed. In addition, the implications of a very large nuclear programme on the downstream energy system are examined, with a reference pathway used to provide a preliminary estimate of the likely total carbon emissions from the UK during the process of decarbonisation.
Date of Award1 Aug 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorKevin Anderson (Supervisor) & Laurence Stamford (Supervisor)


  • energy system
  • technology selection
  • industrial mobilisation
  • climate change
  • decarbonisation
  • nuclear power

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