Posted by Suzanna Hinson

The Science and Technology Committee of the House of Lords are undertaking an inquiry on the priorities for nuclear research and technologies.

Our response has now been published online here: http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/lords-select/science-and-technology-committee/inquiries/parliament-2015/nuclear-research-and-technologies/nuclear-research-and-technologies-publications/ or can be read below.

 

Weinberg Next Nuclear – Written evidence (PNT0045)

 

Weinberg Next Nuclear[1] is a charity promoting advanced nuclear technologies: fast reactors, molten salt reactors, small modular reactors. We therefore very much welcome this Committee enquiry.

Since the Committee’s 2011 report on the UK’s nuclear R&D capacity, Weinberg Next Nuclear has published two short reports on the need for the UK government to support nuclear innovation – financially and through public policy.

Our 2015 report Why Nuclear Innovation is Needed  (http://www.the-weinberg-foundation.org/2015/11/23/why-nuclear-innovation-is-needed/) outlined the advantages of next-generation nuclear technology:

– They can use liquid fuel, so the core cannot melt down;

– They can re-use the spent fuel – which still contains over 90% of the energy that was in the original uranium;

– Advanced reactors could reduce the amount of nuclear waste which has to be managed by future generations (and which already exists so cannot be wished away) by around 95%;

– They can use plutonium as fuel. The UK has the largest stockpile of plutonium in the world;

– They can be built as small modules and then assembled on site to reach the scale desired. This could reduce construction costs. They could be installed where the heat could be used as well as the power.

We called on the then-Chancellor George Osborne to fund prototype demonstrations of advanced nuclear reactors. He did allocate £250 million to nuclear R&D in the 2015 Autumn Statement, and the Government launched the SMR competition.

In April 2016 we published a follow-up report Next Steps for Nuclear Innovation in the UK (http://www.the-weinberg-foundation.org/2016/04/27/report-launch-next-steps-for-nuclear-in-the-uk/) This report:

– outlines criteria which government should use in selecting reactor designs to support (but does not say which designs should be chosen);

– recommends that at least one of the reactors supported should be a Generation IV design, because this could re-use spent nuclear fuel, and also use plutonium as fuel. The UK has the largest plutonium stockpile in the world;

– suggests that SMRs and micro-reactors (less than 20 megawatts) will be cheaper to construct than large reactors because they can be made on production lines then transported to site. Generation IV reactors may also be considerably cheaper than existing nuclear designs due to less complex designs – though this will not be known until one has been constructed;

– supports the Office for Nuclear Regulation’s proposal to increase its capacity by expanding staff numbers. Lack of regulatory capacity is currently the major barrier to nuclear innovation in the UK;

– proposes that UK nuclear regulators should work closely with their Canadian and US counterparts, with the aim of developing a regulatory approval mechanism that would cover all three countries.

Weinberg Next Nuclear believes that responsibility for ensuring that the UK has a coherent and consistent long term policy for civil nuclear activities lies firmly with the Government. The Government is not doing enough to fund research and development on SMRs, or on motivating others to do so. The results of the SMR competition need to be announced as soon as possible. The Government then needs to do more to fund research, development and demonstration of fast reactors and molten salt reactors.

 

Author: Stephen Tindale, Director

24 February 2017

 

 


[1] This is the operating name of the Alvin Weinberg Foundation.

Posted by Suzanna Hinson

New nuclear power capacity in the UK is a challenge to construct. Hinkley Point C had been in the pipeline since 2008. It now has final approval, but will take many more years to build. The length and expense of getting new capacity from initial proposal, through the expensive regulatory assessment to construction is a daunting prospect for companies with new reactor designs and plans. The UK’s licencing and regulatory system needs to be better resourced and better connected. The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) undertakes a Generic Design Assessment, recognised globally as a leader in nuclear regulation. But ONR is limited in its capacity, able to do only two assessments at a time at present. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) manages the UK’s legacy of old reactors, spent fuel and – importantly – licensed nuclear sites.The fact that regulation and siting are dealt with by different organisations lengthens delays, slows progress and increases costs, often with nuclear developers bounced between the two organisations. The disconnect between these two organisations and their separate priorities is also outdated. Increasingly, nuclear designs show… [read more]

Posted by Stephen Tindale

Last week I went to Amsterdam to speak at a seminar on ‘nuclear: the elephant in the room’. The Netherlands has only one operating nuclear power station, Borssele, providing about 4% of the power generated in the country. The Netherlands is very flat (and much of it below sea level) so hydro is not an option. This explains why the Netherlands currently gets only around 6.5% of its energy from renewables. The Dutch target under the EU Renewable Energy Directive is to get 14% of total energy from renewables by 2020. Major expansions of on- and offshore wind are underway. But where should the other 86% come from?The Netherlands has substantial gas resources, so a lot of gas power stations. Gas is less bad for the climate than coal is, and an effective way to back up intermittent renewables such as wind. But gas without carbon capture and storage is not low carbon enough to be regarded as clean (as we argued in http://www.the-weinberg-foundation.org/2017/01/23/new-report-the-case-for-a-clean-energy-alliance/).The Dutch go to the polls on 15 March. None of the 28 parties standing in the… [read more]

Posted by Suzanna Hinson

On Monday, the Nuclear Industry Association held its Small Modular Reactor conference. Weinberg Next Nuclear were delighted to attend and our director Stephen Tindale was one of the many speakers.The conference was opened by Tom Wintle, deputy director of SMRs, decommissioning and waste at the department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Though he spoke very eloquently about the importance of nuclear, and SMRs to the government, particularly in regards to the Industrial Strategy’s aims of home grown industries, developing skills, regional rejuvenation and a stronger economy for the growth areas of tomorrow, he would not be drawn on the real issues the audience clearly wanted to hear about: the much delayed SMR competition and the question of public funding at Moorside. Instead, he highlighted changing priorities of the government, with a renewed focus on energy security, consumer bills and the potential for driving exports and capturing a global SMR market in a post Brexit UK. He would also not be drawn on the future relationship with Euratom, saying it was too early to speculate but repeating it was a… [read more]

Posted by Suzanna Hinson

Dear Greg,I wrote an open letter to you last July regarding the Hinkley decision, published on Weinberg Next Nuclear’s website http://www.the-weinberg-foundation.org/2016/07/29/open-letter-to-greg-clark-on-hinkley/. As I said in that letter, the government should “highlight and welcome the Office for Nuclear Regulation’s plan to deliver decisions on the Generic Design Assessments for Wylfa and Moorside in 2017”. Now, with Toshiba’s withdrawal making Moorside’s future insecure, the government should step in to ensure that the project continues.Priority 7 in your Industrial Strategy Green Paper correctly identifies the advantages of nuclear, with  “a commitment to develop a strong UK supply chain to support the sector”. This ambition to make the UK a leader in the nuclear sector will be significantly compromised if the pipeline of projects loses Moorside.UK energy security will also be compromised.  With Brexit putting the costs of imports into question, and the decline of North Sea production meaning that the UK will rely increasingly on these imports, becoming more self-sufficient in energy must be a priority. The ageing nuclear power plants will soon be decommissioned, and with the coal phase out by 2025, a gap is imminent…. [read more]
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The Alvin Weinberg Foundation’s work has helped us to understand the potential benefits of thorium and next generation nuclear reactors, such as the Molten Salt Reactor.

— All-Party Parliamentary Group on Thorium Energy

@thorium_wf

NIA's SMR conference on Monday was an excellent discussion - but it is clear we now need action on new nuclear.... https://t.co/9xeTX3SzRN
- Friday Mar 3 - 2:21pm

Our Director @STindale making the case for #nuclear as part of a diverse, clean energy mix. https://t.co/5HmYpqUIaB
- Friday Mar 3 - 1:39pm

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