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Ever the optimists… Rolls-Royce chooses four sites for reactor that’s yet to be built 9 Nov 22, Rolls Royce SMR, the company behind the development of so-called Small Modular Reactors, has today announced its ambitious plans to deploy new reactors at four sites in England and North Wales by the early 2030’s, but there is a fly in the ointment – it is a reactor that has yet to be built.

Rolls-Royce has been visiting sites in recent months and number-crunching existing data to identify their preferred locations for any future SMRs, and Wylfa and Trawsfynydd in North Wales; Sellafield in West Cumbria; and Oldbury in Gloucestershire have been selected based on ‘existing geotechnical data, adequate grid connection and because each site is large enough to deploy multiple SMRs’.

But the announcement leapfrogs several crucial challenges Roll-Royce will first need to overcome before their SMR vision becomes reality.

Councillor David Blackburn, Chair of the UK/Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities, explained: “Rolls-Royce may sound optimistic, but the history of British civil nuclear power is littered with projects delivered late, over budget, whilst compromising safety, or with sub-standard power output. And the SMR concept has its own set of problems.

“For one the design has not even received regulatory approval from the Office of Nuclear Regulation, and it may not, and this is a process expected to take until at least mid-2024.

“It is also conceived to be prefabricated and assembled on site, but factories still have to be built to fabricate the parts; the process of fabrication has to be mastered; all the necessary approvals and permits will have to secured to build on each site, possibly in the teeth of significant public opposition; and the assembly of pre-fabricated reactors on site is still not a perfected art – just think of the challenge of building an IKEA furniture set and multiply that a million fold.”

The NFLA also has real concerns about the radioactive waste future SMRs will bring, with a recent study by the University of Stanford and British Columbia identifying that fission in these smaller reactor types could produce between two and thirty times as much radioactive waste as that produced by a ‘conventional’ larger reactor per unit of electricity generated.[1]

Added Councillor Blackburn: “That is an awful lot of radioactive waste to add to the stockpile Britain has already accumulated from almost seventy years of civil nuclear power generation; toxic waste that must be managed safely at vast public expense and for which a long-term totally safe storage solution has yet to be found. Do we really want to produce more when we can generate our electricity safely and more cheaply using renewables?”


November 9, 2022 - Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, UK

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