London 10 September: An important new briefing paper published by the Global Warming Policy Foundation reveals that the government has kicked a key nuclear programme into the long grass.
This follows an announcement last week by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on its small modular nuclear (SMR) competition, which outlined new funding for feasibility studies into a range of new nuclear technologies.
The report, by nuclear industry expert Andrew Dawson, shows that while this might appear to represent progress, in reality it is likely to be the end of the SMRs in the UK:
“When George Osborne announced the SMR competition in 2015, it was about identifying SMR technologies that could be deployed in the near-term. But in its announcement last week, BEIS made it clear that it would only back “blue-skies” projects, some of which are not SMRs, and none of which have any hope of breaking ground in the next few decades. The vendors who might be able to deliver clean energy in the 2020s have been left out in the cold”
BEIS has not given any reason for its decision to ignore the most credible vendors – Westinghouse, Rolls-Royce and NuScale – who might have been able to bring power stations on line in less than ten years, but Dawson is clear that Osborne’s original plan has been betrayed:
“It is unlikely that anyone is actually that incompetent, so it looks very much as if Greg Clark has been outwitted by greens in his ministry. Energy security has been sacrificed to Gaia once again.”
Small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) are power plants small enough to be built in factories and delivered to installation sites on the back of a lorry. Building large numbers of identical reactors in this way means that their costs should fall quickly, and they are therefore expected to be a relatively cheap source of carbon-free electricity. They are also designed to be fail safe.
The briefing paper, entitled Small Modular Nuclear: Crushed at Birth can be downloaded from the GWPF website.