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Last Updated: Monday March 14 2011 11:10 GMT

Nuclear power

Nuclear power provides 14% of the UK's power*

Nuclear power station

What is it?

Radioactive minerals such as uranium are obtained by mining. Electricity is generated from the energy that is released when the atoms of these minerals are split (fission) in nuclear reactors.

Strengths

The price of nuclear energy is quite stable, it doesn't go up and down as much as the price of coal or oil.

Once built, the power stations produce only a small amount of the gas Carbon dioxide. That's important as the UK Government wants to reduce this gas as part of a plan to slow down global warming.

Nuclear power stations produce a reliable, steady stream of electricity.

Weaknesses

Nuclear power stations are very expensive to build, and when they reach the end of their useful life they are very expensive to shut down.

The radioactive nuclear waste must be dealt with very carefully. It's harmful to people so it must be treated and then kept in special stores to keep it safe. Deciding where to store it causes a lot of arguments.

Concerns have been raised about the safety of the nuclear industry because of accidents that have happened at power stations in other countries. Supporters of Britain's nuclear industry say our nuclear reactors are built and run in a way that means they are safe.

The future

The British Government says it's looking at building a number of new nuclear power stations and that the first new one could be up and running before 2020.

* Based on Department of Energy and Climate Change figures 2010. The exact proportions change yearly.



Guide to Energy