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Small Modular Nuclear Reactors not economically viable, but UK govt is funding them anyway

UK government to release funding for mini nuclear power stations
Up to £100m expected to be announced in effort to make UK leader in technology and provide fresh source of clean power,
Guardian, Adam Vaughan, 4 Dec 17, The energy minister, Richard Harrington, is expected to announce support for the embryonic technology on Thursday, industry figures told the Guardian. The funding is likely to be up to £100m, one source said.

Small modular reactors provide about a tenth of the power of a conventional large nuclear power station, such as the one EDF is building at Hinkley Point C in Somerset. But their backers pitch them as a cheaper and quicker way to generate the new, low-carbon power the UK needs.

 Rolls-Royce has been publicly and privately lobbying the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) over its SMR design, which it positions as an industrial opportunity for Britain that would generate thousands of UK jobs.

The firm argues that with electric cars likely to drive up future energy demand, the reactors will become a vital part of national infrastructure………

The funding is designed to help Rolls and other consortia, including the US companies NuScale and Terrapower and the controversial Chinese firm CNNC, undertake the research and development for a small nuclear power station to be built in the UK. It is not yet clear who will win a share of public funds, or how the pot will be carved up between the 33 participants in the SMR competition.

Government officials have repeatedly made it clear that developers will only get financial help if they can prove their SMR will be affordable and competitive with rival energy sources. The earliest an SMR is thought likely to be ready for deployment in the UK is around 2030………

The former energy secretary Lord Howell gave his backing to the reactors at a recent House of Lords event, where advocates and critics debated the technology.

“The obvious way forward is through the sequential construction of a new series of smaller modular reactors of the kind now being developed by Rolls-Royce in the UK, and also in China and in America,” said Howell.

However, energy experts said the case for SMRs was far from proved, especially given the falling cost of alternatives such as offshore windfarms………….

Paul Dorfman, a research fellow at University College London, said: “The real question the government must ask is this: given the ongoing steep reduction in all renewable energy costs, and since SMR research and development is still very much ongoing, by the time SMRs comes to market, can they ever be cost competitive with renewable energy? The simple answer to that is a resounding no.”

An energy industry source also questioned how credible most of the SMR developers were. “Almost none of them have got more than a back of a fag packet design drawn with a felt tip,” the source said……..https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/dec/03/mini-nuclear-power-stations-uk-government-funding

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December 4, 2017 - Posted by | technology, UK

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