Developers of “mini” nuclear reactors suffered a double setback yesterday after ministers deferred a decision on backing the technology and published a report suggesting that it could be even more expensive than Hinkley Point C. Companies including Rolls-Royce and Nuscale have been vying to secure the government’s support for their reactor designs. Ministers announced two years ago that they were launching a competition to identify the “best value small modular reactor (SMR) design for the UK”, as part of £250 million of nuclear innovation spending, with plans to build one of the world’s first such reactors in the UK by the 2020s. The as-yet-untested technology is usually defined as involving reactors of less than 300-megawatt capacity. Proponents have argued that smaller reactors would be quicker, cheaper and easier to build than conventional ones. A study by Atkins, the consultants, dated July 2016 but published by the government yesterday, found that the first SMR was likely to be more expensive, with lifetime electricity costs of about £101 per megawatt-hour. It said this was much higher than estimates submitted by leading small nuclear developers, which were likely to be subject to “overly optimistic” outlooks. The report added, however, that the SMRs had the “potential to see technology costs reduce at a faster rate than large nuclear costs”. The original government SMR competition included both reactors such as those being developed by Rolls-Royce and Nuscale, which are essentially smaller versions of existing water-cooled reactor technology, as well as technologies at a far earlier stage that would use different cooling systems and fuels such as molten salt. Ministers yesterday said that the latter category should be referred to as “advanced modular reactors” and announced they were making £4 million of funding available for feasibility studies on such technologies. A further £40 million could be released if the Treasury was convinced it was “clear value for money”. Alan Woods, strategy director of Rolls-Royce’s nuclear business, welcomed the expert review into financing SMRs but said: “We do need more, we cannot continue to invest as an industry without any signal. We have been doing this now for two years under the competition. It is critically important we get some form of forward roadmap from government pretty quickly.”
Times 8th Dec 2017 read more »
Electricity from the first mini nuclear power stations in Britain would be likely to be more expensive than from large atomic plants such as Hinkley Point C, according to a government study. Power from small modular reactors (SMRs) would cost nearly one-third more than conventional large ones in 2031, the report found, because of reduced economies of scale and the costs of deploying first-of-a-kind technology. The analysis by the consultancy Atkins for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said there was “a great deal of uncertainty with regards to the economics” of the smaller reactors. However, the authors said such reactors should be able to cut costs more quickly than large ones because they could be built and put into service in less time. The government also defended Britain’s need for new nuclear power in the face of falling renewable costs. Richard Harrington, the energy minister, said the record low subsidies recently awarded to offshore windfarms emphasised the challenge for the French, Korean, Chinese and Japanese companies building the UK’s new generation of nuclear plants to be competitive on price. The minister argued that the lower cost of wind did not spell the end for new nuclear. Doug Parr, the policy director at Greenpeace UK, said: “Instead of downplaying the rapid advancement of UK renewables, the government should concentrate on the export opportunities for this UK success story.” Caroline Lucas, the Green party co-leader, called the UK’s energy policy a mess. “Ministers are ploughing huge sums of money into supporting overpriced nuclear, while retaining a de facto ban on onshore wind and failing to give solar the support the sector needs,” she said. Ministers also announced that they would be looking in the new year at plans for a long-term underground nuclear waste dump. The government has been searching for several years to find a community willing to play host to a so-called geological disposal facility, but without success.
Guardian 7th Dec 2017 read more »
The UK Government will provide up to £56m of funding for research and development in mini-nuclear plants, it said on Thursday. The funding will be available over the next three years and will be used to assess the potential of designs of advanced and small modular reactors (SMRs) and accelerating their development, the government said in a statement.
Independent 7th Dec 2017 read more »