Can Small Modular Reactors and/or Advanced Nuclear Reactors Help Tackle Climate Change? By Dr Ian Fairlie and Pete Roche.
Ian Fairlie 26th Sept 2021 read more »
Boris Johnson is backing a new generation of nuclear reactors as Britain finds itself in the grip of an energy crisis. Ministers are understood to have adopted a “change of focus” towards nuclear power, which the prime minister sees as essential to the government achieving its 2050 net zero targets as well as his levelling-up agenda. Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, is poised to approve funding for Rolls-Royce to create a fleet of mini reactors. Rolls-Royce believes the project to install at least 16 plants could create 40,000 jobs by 2050 in the Midlands, the north of England and elsewhere. A consortium led by the engineering firm has secured the £210 million needed to unlock matching funding from taxpayers. It will be the first developer of “small modular reactors” (SMRs) to submit its designs to regulators. In a sign that consensus has developed at the top of government, the Treasury, which had been seen as an obstacle to new nuclear projects because costs had been rising, has also concluded more nuclear power is needed. In an energy crisis meeting on Friday morning the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, made clear that he thought nuclear facilities should play a more prominent role in the UK’s future energy policy. A source close to Sunak said: “His general view is that we should have been doing this ten years ago, when it was cheaper, but we can’t rely on wind and solar power.” A senior government source said the recent rise in gas prices, coinciding with unusually slow winds in the North Sea, had underlined the need to invest more in nuclear. A senior Whitehall source claimed the energy crisis was pushing the government to be “more ambitious”. Ministers are understood to “accept the logic” presented to Johnson by energy experts: at least six new large nuclear reactors, each generating about three gigawatts, and 20 mini reactors of 450MW will be required to meet the UK’s energy needs and carbon reduction targets. Britain’s electricity system needs to be decarbonised by 2035 to reach net zero by 2050.
Times 26th Sept 2021 read more »
After more than a decade of ambivalence and dithering over nuclear power, the Conservatives appear to have had a Damascene conversion, brought on by the gas crisis and the realisation that the UK’s energy mix is becoming more fragile. Despite nuclear power reliably churning out a fifth of our electricity needs, ministers and officials have often seemed blasé about replacing stations. Overseas investors have gradually abandoned the UK as a result. Centrica ditched plans to invest in new nuclear power in 2013. Japan’s Toshiba scrapped the Moorside plant at Sellafield in Cumbria in 2018. Russian and Canadian operators have also walked away. Industry sources believe China could pull out of Hinkley Point if the government decides to force it out of Sizewell and Bradwell. The Guardian reported yesterday that ministers were closing in on a deal to kick China off Sizewell and replace its 20 per cent stake with taxpayers’ cash. Industry insiders say Britain needs six to eight new big plants and 30 to 40 smaller ones if it is to have any chance of hitting its net zero target by 2050. But they warn that expertise and investment has been seeping away to countries such as Abu Dhabi, America and Canada as our nuclear plans have stalled. But the key to unlocking more nuclear development is a pricing model known as a regulated asset base. This involves passing a return on the upfront costs to consumers via higher energy bills in the building phase and is politically unpopular — although it is how electricity transmission and water networks are funded. Stone estimates that Sizewell would be able to deliver electricity at between £40 and £60/MWh using this method. Future plants could be cheaper. The government has been consulting on allowing nuclear projects to use this model. Some think it could be announced before the Cop26 climate conference in November. It may well be the only way to salvage Britain’s nuclear industry.
Times 26th Sept 2021 read more »
Liam Halligan: Mini nukes can fix Britain’s energy woes. This crunch is refocusing attention on atomic energy as part of a solution to achieving broader security. Britain’s energy crunch has a clear and immediate cause – namely, a sudden surge in international gas prices. But the underlying problems exposed by what is now a serious crisis-in-the-making have been building up for years. The UK’s combined choices, over decades in fact, regarding energy market design, price controls, gas-led power generation and the push for renewables have this week been shown to be sorely lacking. The UK has around 10 operational nuclear power stations, generating almost a fifth of our electricity. Most of them are run by EDF, majority-owned by the French government – yet another reason Macron’s embargo threats are absurd. Back in 2018, the Government’s National Infrastructure Commission suggested just one more major nuclear facility should be built beyond the new plant EDF is building at Hinkley Point in Somerset – even though all the UK’s existing operational plants are due to be decommissioned by 2035. While some environmental purists shun atomic energy, the industry’s hugely improved safety record means nuclear can make a major contribution to decarbonisation – “filling the renewables gap when the when the wind doesn’t blow”. Wind power, while accounting for almost a quarter of UK electricity last year, remains expensive, as well as unreliable. A Westinghouse deal could scupper the Welsh government’s plans to use the same Anglesey site to house a small-scale nuclear reactor designed by Rolls-Royce. Such small modular facilities have yet to be approved by Britain’s regulatory authorities. But this looming winter energy scare, even if Kwarteng is right and “the lights stay on”, should surely provide a spur to speed up such approval. Sites should also be found for more of the Rolls-Royce modular plants – as part of a broader effort to re-establish Britain’s domestic nuclear expertise, as we take vital steps to enhance our energy security.
Telegraph 26th Sept 2021 read more »
Dawning of Britain’s ‘new nuclear age’: Gas crisis prompts ministers to ‘change focus’ with Kwasi Kwarteng poised to approve 16 mini-reactors in bid to hit 2050 net zero target. Ministers understood to have adopted ‘change of focus’ towards nuclear power. Rolls-Royce believes plans to install at least 16 plants could create 40,000 jobs. Consortium has secured £210million to get matching funding from the taxpayer.
Daily Mail 26th Sept 2021 read more »