Trawsfynydd is a 15-hectare site in Snowdonia National Park, Gwynedd and the location of a decommissioned Magnox station. The site had two Magnox reactors with a total capacity of 470MW, which both started operating in 1965, but only operated for 26 years. Now the Welsh Government has expressed a desire to see a Small Modular Reactor built on the site and Rolls Royce has named it as a potential site for one of its reactors.
Originally the plan was that the twin reactor buildings that tower over the landscape would be reduced in height by two-thirds, and then left in a care and maintenance phase, before the site is completely cleared in 2083. Removal of the highly-radioactive spent fuel rods began in 1993 and these were sent by rail to Sellafield. This was completed in 1997.
The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority announced in 2020 that Trawsfynydd would become the very first Magnox station in the UK to be fully decommissioned. The new programme will see the remaining reactor buildings demolished, while a new low-level radioactive waste store is built on the site to hold the material. This could take twenty years to complete. (1)
Rolls-Royce is leading the UK SMR Consortium, which also includes Assystem, Atkins, BAM Nuttall, Jacobs, Laing O’Rourke, National Nuclear Laboratory, Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre and TWI. The consortium is hoping to build 16 small modular reactors in the UK, but it wants a further £217m of funding from the government for the project. It argues that this will create 6,000 jobs and support the government’s “levelling up” agenda, with up to 80% of the power station components set to be made in factories across the Midlands and the north of England. These components would then be sent on to existing nuclear sites around the country for rapid assembly. (2)
Rolls-Royce says the first of its planned small nuclear reactors could be built at Trawsfynydd. Their chief technology officer Paul Stein says there is a “high probability” that Trawsfynydd would be the site of the first such 440MW reactor. He said: “Trawsfynydd is a great first site for the [reactor]. Right now the jury’s out – there are a number of great sites around the country – but two of the three sites [under consideration] are in Wales.” He added: “With so-called brownfield sites, where there has been a nuclear reactor, we know the local population is happy, there is a skilled local population that used to run the plant, there’s a grid connection and the seismic condition of the site [is suitable].”
Moorside in Cumbria has also been suggested as a site for SMRs. (3)
North Wales Minister Ken Skates has emphasised the Welsh Government’s commitment to the Trawsfynydd site in Gwynedd, and its future potential in developing small modular reactors and other associated technologies. (4) Skates confirmed his intention to establish a new development company, Cwmni Egino, at Trawsfynydd to help exploit the huge economic benefits of small modular reactors and associated technologies, including the potential for a medical research reactor, to provide a secure and sustainable supply of medical radioisotopes for Wales, the UK and Europe. (5)
For further information on SMRs see:
Prospects for Small Modular Reactors in the UK & Worldwide by Steve Thomas, Paul Dorfman, Sean Morris & M.V. Ramana, NFLA and NCG July 2019 https://www.nuclearpolicy.info/wp/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Prospects-for-SMRs-report-2.pdf
Nuclear Monitor 7th March 2019 https://wiseinternational.org/sites/default/files/NM872-873-final.pdf
- BBC 30th July 2020 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-53595839 and Daily Post 30th July 2020 https://www.dailypost.co.uk/news/north-wales-news/major-trawsfynydd-jobs-boost-next-18687158
- Guardian 11th Nov 2020 https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/nov/11/rolls-royce-vows-to-create-6000-uk-jobs-with-nuclear-power-station-plans and Rolls Royce 11th Nov 2020 https://www.rolls-royce.com/media/press-releases/2020/11-11-2020-nuclear-power-stations-will-create-6000-uk-levelling-up-jobs-by-2025.aspx
- Construction News 14th Feb 2020 https://www.constructionnews.co.uk/sustainability/rolls-royce-eyes-snowdonia-nuclear-site-for-first-small-modular-reactor-14-02-2020/
- Nuclear Industry Association 6th March 2020 https://www.niauk.org/media-centre/press-releases/nuclear-industry-association-responds-north-wales-ministers-emphasise-commitment-trawsfynydd-site/
- Welsh Government 23rd Oct 2020 https://gov.wales/written-statement-date-nuclear-sector-wales-0