Small nuclear reactors have the potential to revolutionise Britain’s energy market, providing a clean, secure supply of electricity that will help the country to meet its targets to reduce carbon emissions, a parliamentary select committee will announce today.
Known as Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), this fledgling technology is being designed in such a way that it can be manufactured at a plant and taken to a site fully constructed. As well as generating green electricity, the reactors could be used for heat production, desalination or water purification, the committee said. However, if it is to be a success it will need a sustained period of collaboration between government and industry, said the cross-party Energy and Climate Change Committee.
“SMRs could potentially have a key role to play in delivering low-carbon energy and lower upfront capital cost compared to large conventional nuclear reactors,” said Tim Yeo MP, committee chair.
“That said, the commercial viability of SMRs remains unclear. The government should support the use of existing nuclear site for the deployment of SMRs. These sites could potentially host a demonstrator module with minimal additional infrastructure requirements and with the support of a skilled local workforce,” he added.
The committee urges the government to “establish the right conditions for investment in SMRs”, for example through supporting the regulator to speed up the process.
It points out that many of the barriers to deploying SMRs in the UK are similar to the challenges of deploying larger conventional reactors – that is high capital cost, long lead times and “potential volatility in political and social support”.
Matthew Hancock, the energy minister, said he will work to make the most of the potential offered by SMRs.
The report comes after Owen Paterson, the former Environment Secretary, suggested that a fleet of small nuclear reactors built 20 miles from cities could be an alternative to building thousands more wind turbines.
He pointed out that small nuclear plants had been running successfully in Britain for the 30 years, including one in Derby at the Rolls-Royce site that support’s the nuclear submarines. Factory built units at the rate of one a month could add to the capacity at a rate of 1.8 gigawatts per year [enough to power a million homes],” Mr Paterson has said.Reuse content