Archive for May, 2017

Nuclear in Africa

Posted by Suzanna Hinson on May 16th, 2017

Whilst nuclear power progress is struggling in South Africa, other African nations are keen to exploit the technology. World Nuclear News has reported that Uganda has sent a delegation to China to learn about nuclear technology and begin talks on cooperation.

Uganda has an electrification rate of 20% since June 2016, meaning there is a need for more power than expanding hydroelectric sites can provide. Uganda’s Vision 2040 roadmap includes the development of 40,000 MW of nuclear energy as part of the future energy mix. Prisca Boonabantu, undersecretary in the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development and leader of the delegation to China, said “Plans have been made in Uganda to have clean and safe energy generation sources with nuclear being one of them.” She added that Uganda welcomes partners to help construct, train and develop nuclear energy in line with International Atomic Energy Agency standards.

Uganda has already signed a Memorandum of Understanding on nuclear energy cooperation with China Central Plains Foreign Engineering Company and China Nuclear Manufacturing Group. This follows a previous Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Ugandan ministry and Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom for cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear.

Uganda has local uranium deposits that it plans to exploit with help from Russia and China. The country is one of many on the African continent recognising the benefits of nuclear power with Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria all engaging with Russia’s Rosatom. As these countries develop, safe, secure and sustainable power provision is key. Nuclear power can help provide the energy needs of Africa and advanced reactors can ensure that the reactors are as safe and cost efficient as possible.

 

http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NP-Uganda-seeks-Chinese-cooperation-in-nuclear-energy-1205174.html

 

Engineers echo politicians: SMRs could help the UK post-Brexit

Posted by Suzanna Hinson on May 11th, 2017

Following the recent publication of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Select Committee’s report on the nuclear industry post-Brexit, the Institution for Mechanical Engineers have echoed their findings. In a report published last week (Leaving the EU, the Euratom Treaty Part 2: A Framework for the Future) the Institution argues that small modular reactors could be the key to securing the UK’s nuclear future post-Brexit.

The risks to the UK nuclear industry post-Brexit are well known, with leaving Euratom a particular concern that could damage nuclear innovation, as well as risk fuel supply and confuse regulation. The Institution’s report suggests some paths the UK Government could take to tackle this key issue Brexit poses. For instance, they recommend developing a UK Safeguarding Office to conform to international rules, as there is no fall back to Euratom in a no-deal scenario. This would cover regulation of safety and non-proliferation. In the Institution’s (and in Weinberg’s) view, the UK would ideally seek associate membership of Euratom to continue research and development cooperation.

This research and development commitment is key, with the Institution’s argument in this report being that Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) could be the sector that secures the nuclear industry’s success post-Brexit. As such they recommend pursuing the currently delayed SMR competition, opportunities for demonstration and commercialisation, and collaboration with devolved and local government to ensure sites are developed. The report mentions Trawsfynydd in Wales as one such option for development.

Jenifer Baxter, the Institution’s head of energy and environment and lead author of the report, said “The UK’s departure from the EU and Euratom is likely to be complicated and difficult, but it also presents the country with an opportunity to reshape its nuclear industry and once again become a world-leading innovator in nuclear technology.”

Weinberg Next Nuclear believe the Government should take very seriously the reports from the BEIS Select Committee and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, and make the production of a nuclear strategy plan a priority. Brexit poses many risks to the UK nuclear industry and it is essential that these be managed to allow the UK’s nuclear sector to thrive again.

https://www.imeche.org/news/news-article/small-modular-reactors-could-provide-uk-with-key-opportunities-post-brexit

 

This week the House of Lord’s Science and Technology Committee published its report “ Nuclear research and technology: Breaking the cycle of indecision”. Weinberg Next Nuclear welcomes the report and agrees with many of its conclusions.

Nuclear has undoubted potential in the UK, but indecision for many years, through successive governments, has impaired progress. Continual delays have damaged both short and long term opportunities, as well as tarnishing the reputation for nuclear in the UK and limiting investor confidence.

Instead, the report argues that the Government “must act now to provide underpinning strategic support to the nuclear industry”. This action can and should be chosen strategically, and the Government can decide to either be a designer, manufacturer and operator of nuclear power itself, or be a destination to operate nuclear reactors designed and potentially manufactured overseas.

The report recommends investment in nuclear research and development, including allocating the £250 million announced by former chancellor George Osborne in 2015 and giving core funding to the National Nuclear Laboratory (see our recommendations for investment in this report). Small modular reactors (SMRs) are one of the areas that have particular potential, with the report recognising they are likely to be “globally important for the future of nuclear energy”. The UK’s experience in this sector, through defence application expertise, gives it the potential to be a world leader. Despite the potential both for the technology globally and the UK specifically, the SMR competition is still delayed. The report recommends the results should be published without delay, and joint ventures with foreign partners to develop the resulting technologies should be considered. Finally the report expresses caution (as we ourselves have done in this blog) on the risks of leaving Euratom as part of the Brexit process without a suitable replacement. Convening a group to plan to preserve the essential benefits of Euratom membership is a matter of urgency as the UK risks losing access to markets, skills and even fuel.

Unless the cycle of indecision is broken, the UK not only risks losing its status as a global leader in the nuclear sector, it also risks development of a secure and sustainable power supply for the future, and even the continued operation of its existing nuclear power plants. Weinberg Next Nuclear hope the Government heed this report, and its recommendations. Following the General Election in June, nuclear power policy should come off of hold and onto fast track.

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