The UK government has announced an ambitious £200m ($262M) funding deal with the nuclear sector that could lead to a new generation small modular reactor (SMs) to be built at an existing nuclear site in North Wales.
Of the total funding, £56m will go to help eight vendors of SMRs carry out technical studies. Several vendors are already exploring commercial options for LWR type SMRs in the UK including Rolls Royce, NuScale, and Westinghouse. However, this money is for non-LWR type reactor technologies. The Trawsfynydd nuclear site seen as a possible location for an advanced SMR that might emerge from this work.
Rolls Royce, for one, expressed concern about the distinction. The firm told the Financial Times on June 27 that SMR R&D should be part of a “national endeavor” and that there should not be a technological preference embedded in the government plan.
The deal, part of the country’s long-term industrial strategy, is worth over £200M. it comes on the heels of the government’s recent announcement that it has entered into negotiations with Hitachi over plans to build two 1350 MW Advanced-Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR) units at Wylfa Newydd on the island of Anglesey in north Wales. The latest media reports put the level of government support for that project at £18 billion, but there is still a way to go before the parties involved sign off on a deal.
SMR for Wales
(NucNet) Alun Cairns, secretary of state for Wales, said Trawsfynydd is ready to be transformed with SMRs with little upgrade needed to the grid infrastructure: “It’s in the right place with the right people and good links to leading academic research institutions in the nuclear sector. The kind of small reactor which could be sited in Trawsfynydd is set to usher in an era of cost-effective power with equipment put together off site and transported to locations like this for relatively easy assembly.”
Trawsfynydd, which had two 195-MW gas-cooled Magnox reactors, is on a 15-hectare site, on an inland lake in Snowdonia National Park. Trawsfynydd was the first inland civil Magnox nuclear station. It started service in 1965 and generated 69 TWh of electricity over the 26 years until its closure in 1991.
In 2016 a committee of MPs said Trawsfynydd should be designated as a site for a first-of-its kind SMR station. They said progress should to be made soon if the UK wants to be “first to market” for SMRs.
The UK-wide deal funded by public and private money also includes:
- Up to £56m for research and development for “advanced modular reactors” not based on LWR type technologies
- £86m UK government funding for a national fusion technology platform at Culham, Oxfordshire
- £32m for an advanced manufacturing and construction program which includes a £12M contribution from industry. This initiative also includes a £30m fund for a new national supply chain program
- A commitment from industry to reduce the cost of new nuclear build projects by 30% by 2030, and the cost of decommissioning old nuclear sites by 20% by 2030
- A new review to look at ways to accelerate the clean-up of nuclear ‘legacy’ sites
- A commitment to increasing gender diversity in the civil nuclear workforce with a target of 40% women in nuclear by 2030
Credit: Neutron Bytes