MPs warn that nuclear uncertainty means the UK is likely to miss a key environmental target

  • Small and medium reactors are nuclear reactors capable of producing up to 300 megawatts of electrical energy
  • The UK’s first SMR is “unlikely” to generate any capacity until 2035, the EAC said

The government’s policy on building small modular reactors is unlikely to help Britain achieve a crucial environmental target, MPs have warned.

The government hopes to decarbonize the country’s electricity grid by the middle of the next decade, partly through the development of “mini-nuclear plants.”

However, a final investment decision on the UK’s first SMR is not expected until 2029, so it is “unlikely” any capacity will be generated until 2035, the Environmental Audit Committee said on Monday.

Objective: Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant under construction.  The government wants the UK to have up to 24 gigawatts of nuclear capacity by 2050

Objective: Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant under construction. The government wants the UK to have up to 24 gigawatts of nuclear capacity by 2050

Small and medium reactors are advanced nuclear reactors built by factories and capable of producing up to 300 megawatts of electrical energy, much less than a conventional nuclear plant, but they can be transported to sites.

Last year, the government launched a competition allowing companies to showcase their proposed designs for small and medium-sized projects (SMR) for publication.

Great British Nuclear, the body tasked with judging the proposals, considered six companies most likely to achieve small-scale operations, including EDF, Rolls-Royce and Westinghouse.

But the EAC said it had received evidence that the different demands would result in “a greater amount of waste for storage and reprocessing”.

It wants to simplify regulations for small and medium vehicles so that they can be approved and rolled out more quickly while ensuring that safety standards are not compromised.

In addition, the Committee called for value-for-money assessments of SME projects to be published for scrutiny before any public spending commitments are made for such schemes.

Philip Dunne, MP, Chair of the East African Community, said: “The UK has the opportunity to be a true global leader in manufacturing SMR nuclear capacity with significant export potential.”

However, he warned that “uncertainty threatens to have knock-on effects on industry confidence… not only for investment decisions related to upstream and plant construction to build reactor modules, but also to support and grow supply chains and skills.” .

He added: “We simply do not yet know how much SMEs contribute to electricity generation in the country, nor how much their deployment is likely to cost taxpayers.”

The UK derived nearly 14% of its total electricity needs from nuclear power in 2022, compared to nearly a quarter in the 1990s, as it increasingly relies on renewable sources, such as solar and wind.

Nuclear power output is expected to decline further this decade as many plants retire, although capacity at Hinkley Point C, currently under construction, is set to offset much of the decline.

last week, The Financial Times reported that GBN is in talks with Japanese company Hitachi To acquire land in Wylfa, Anglesey, with a view to developing the site into a new nuclear power station.

The government wants the UK to have up to 24 gigawatts of nuclear capacity by 2050, which could supply around 25 per cent of the UK’s expected electricity demand.

(tags for translation) Daily Mail

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