a timeline of energy technology



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History of nuclear energy

Britain housed the first industrial nuclear power plant on an industrial scale in the 1950s and, for the past 60 years, has continued to play an important role in the UK energy mix. But last year it began to falter, as plants across the UK begin to retire, they have not been replaced.

Recent developments at nuclear power plants, such as Hinkley Point C and Wylfa Newydd, have been affected by problems, leaving the UK's long-term nuclear future uncertain.

So how did nuclear power grow and disappear in the UK?

1956 – Calder Hall

Calder Hall was the world's first industrial scale nuclear power. Built in Cumbria and costing £ 35m, it started operating in 1956 and was decommissioned only in 2003. The plant had four reactors and a total capacity of 194MW.

1959 – Chapelcross 1, 2 and 3 (4 in 1960)

The first nuclear power plant in Scotland was Chapelcross in Dumfries. Reactors 1, 2 and 3 began production in 1959 with Chapelcross 4 from 1960 onwards. The plant had a maximum capacity of 196 MW and operated for over 40 years. The decommissioning began in 2004, and the final release of the site is expected in 2095.

1962 – Bradwell 1 and 2

Starting production in 1962, Bradwell 1 and 2 in Essex had a capacity of 242MW. Dismantling began in 2002, with all fuel removed from the site in 2005.

1962 – Berkeley 1 and 2

Berkeley 1 and 2 also began to produce power in 1962, however the dismantling began in 1989, becoming the first nuclear power plant to be decommissioned in the United Kingdom. The mill, located on the banks of the Severn River in Gloucester, had a total capacity of 276MW.

1965 – Hinkley Point A

The first nuclear reactor built in Hinkley, Somerset, started producing power in 1965 and was decommissioned in 2000. The plant had a capacity of 500 MW.

1966 – Sizewell A

In 1966, Sizewell A began operations in Suffolk at a cost of £ 65 million. The two reactors of the plant had a total capacity of 420 MW, which were deactivated in 2006.

1971 – Wylfa 1 and 2

Construction of Wylfa 1 and 2, Wales' second nuclear power plant on the Isle of Anglesey, began in 1963 and began producing power in 1971. The plant had a capacity of 980MW and continued to produce power by 2015 when decommissioning began.

1995 – Sizewell B

The last nuclear plant built and connected to the grid was Sizewell B in 1995. With a capacity of 1,188MW, it is currently operated by EDF Energy and is the only UK pressurized water reactor. It is planned to continue production until 2035, when it will be decommissioned and the site used for another reactor.

1997 – THORP

The nuclear fuel reprocessing plant at the Thermo Oxide Reprocessing Plant (THORP) at Sellafield was officially inaugurated in 1997. It was announced in 2018 that operations had stopped, but the plant would continue to keep the fuel running until the 2070s. £ 1.8bn to build.

2018 – Hinkley Point C

The Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant was approved by the UK government in 2016 and on 27 March 2017 the Nuclear Regulatory Office gave its consent for the construction of the plant. Work began in 2018, and the first reactor is expected to be in operation by 2025, according to EDF's majority shareholder. It is the only nuclear power plant under construction in the UK and is expected to cost about £ 20 billion, with a capacity of 3,200 MW.

2019 – Wylfa Newydd

A new power plant was being planned by Horizon in Anglesey, next to the site of the former nuclear power plant being decommissioned. However, the future of the 20 billion pound Wylfa Newydd nuclear plant is currently uncertain after Horizon's controlling company Hitachi has suspended its development plans. The plant should have a capacity of 2,900 MW and be operational by the mid-2020s, to continue operating for 60 years.

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