Achieving real Net Zero

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Meeting the 2050 Net Zero target is achievable, but under current proposals, the risk of falling short is high. As the urgency around climate change intensifies, decisions by Governments must accelerate if the countries are to match ambition with action. This talk will summarise Engineering Net Zero, with a focus on the role of nuclear and physics and what more needs to be done.  

The UK proposal effectively curtails new nuclear in the mid-2030s, using Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) to enable firm low-carbon power generation. The UK currently has no CCS capacity, nor a hydrogen production industry and if these technologies cannot be delivered, it will be difficult and expensive to resurrect the nuclear new build market leading up to 2050.    

Considering the risks to Net Zero delivery reinforces the importance of keeping alternative options open and developing an actively managed and constantly updated system architecture. It is entirely possible that the least cost route to Net Zero will require considerably more nuclear power than is currently being considered, dependent on the success of alternative financing models which must be urgently explored. The next few years will therefore be crucial in assessing and updating a feasible path to 2050. 

Physics as a discipline is essential to supporting the nuclear industry. One example of this can be found in SNC-Lavalin’s work on graphite bricks. Approximately 15% of the UK’s electricity comes from nuclear power stations that use graphite bricks as moderators, making them a key part of the UK’s low carbon generation strategy. As these stations near the end of their operating life detailed analysis is required to support their continued operation.  

SNC-Lavalin have developed new analysis tools, presented here, to positively address this challenge and have successfully delivered key results.  This presentation will set out how our novel approach provides an efficient solution to the challenges of modelling the dynamics of the core of a UK AGR and how this has directly contributed to continued generation of low-carbon electricity in the UK.  


Chair: Matthew Minter, Atkins Global, UK 


Net Zero Needs Nuclear, Nuclear Needs Physics
Isobel Houghton and Sarah Long
Atkins Global, UK

Key dates

Registration deadline (in-person only):

12 November 2021

Late registration deadline (Online only):

Until full


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