Posted by Suzanna Hinson

Today, the much awaited spending review was announced. Following Amber Rudd’s speech last week on UK energy policy, it was no surprise that Chancellor George Osborne also mentioned nuclear and, more specifically, Small Modular Reactors.

He said,

“ we’re doubling our spending on energy research with a major commitment to small modular nuclear reactors”

It has also been announced that there will be a competition launched next year to select the best Small Modular Reactor design.

Many are encouraged by this support for nuclear, including Fiona Reilly of PwC who said it was “welcome news and an important development for the country’s energy mix”.

In addition to nuclear, Osborne also committed to more than doubling support for low-carbon electricity and renewables and supporting the creation of the shale gas industry by ensuring that communities benefit from a Shale Wealth Fund, worth up to £1bn and funded from shale tax revenue.

Small modular reactors should be supported as they could mean a more rapid expansion of nuclear power with all the associated benefits of improved air quality and fewer greenhouse gas emissions. They might be a way to revolutionise low-carbon energy by providing a quicker, cheaper and greener supply – though we cannot be sure until some are built.

However, it is important not to be too selective with technologies and we would also recommend that some of the money promised to nuclear research and development should go to demonstration of other technologies such as Molten Salt Reactors as recommended in our latest publication.

Weinberg Next Nuclear welcomes the Chancellor’s support for low-carbon energy. It is good to see a diverse range of technologies being encouraged including renewables as well as support for exciting nuclear developments. However, in total, DECC’s day-to-day resource budget will fall by 22 per cent. The areas suffering from these cuts, according to The Guardian, are energy efficiency schemes and green heating systems but there is also the possibility that the support for renewables is more words than reality. The aim of the cuts is to minimize consumer bills but there is concern that this makes it less likely that the UK will meet its climate change targets and thus there is still significant room for improvement in UK energy policy.

Comments

  1. Charles Barton says:

    Once again qwe see the mistake of placing politicians rather than the market make decisions about energy. Politicians tend to ignore market signals, that indicate decision were mistakes, and mistaken paths do not pay off.

  2. Jeremy Owston says:

    A look through the history of nuclear power and you find two goals for power reactors

    Handme down designs for weapons material production then developed into commercial power reactors (Magnox AGR was then developed from it)

    Handme down reactors for submarine propulsion scaled up and developed into electrical power reactors (PWR and to an extent BWR)

    the second bunch are reactors developed trying to achieve the goal of unlimited power for foreseeable future (LMFR such as PFR)

    At no point has there been a power reactor developed from the ground up to match the customers needs only. the requirements for such a reactor is very different and are as follows:

    Low capital cost,
    Short construction times
    Simple operation (no requirement for 200 to 300 permenant expert staff to operate)
    Simple maintenance
    Flexible operation

    If a reactor is designed to address all of the above issues then it will have huge commercial success. Issues of minimal importance for power reactor (and has had a high past focus) are as follows:

    high resource utilisation (breed and recycle fuel)
    Reduced waste footprint
    increased “Safety” levels above regulatory requirements

    Focus on the above aspects has resulted in reactors with increased complexity and cost and thus low take up in the electrical sector.

    There is an opportunity now to start afresh with a reactor designed around purely customers requirements

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