- SMRs are nuclear reactors capable of producing up to 300MW of electrical energy
- The EAC said the UK’s first SMR is “unlikely” to deliver capacity until 2035.
Government policy on building small modular reactors (SMRs) is unlikely to help Britain meet a critical environmental target, MPs have warned.
The Government hopes to decarbonise the country’s electricity grid by the middle of the next decade, partly through the development of ‘mini nuclear power plants’.
However, the Environmental Audit Committee said on Monday that a final investment decision on the UK’s first SMR is not expected until 2029, making it “unlikely” it will deliver capacity until 2035.
Target: Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant under construction. The government wants the UK to have up to 24GW of nuclear capacity by 2050
SMRs are advanced factory-built nuclear reactors capable of producing up to 300 MW of electrical power, much less than a traditional nuclear plant, but can be transported to sites.
Last year, the government launched a competition allowing companies to submit their proposals for SMR designs for implementation.
Great British Nuclear, the body tasked with judging the proposals, judged six companies most likely to achieve operational SMRs, including EDF, Rolls-Royce and Westinghouse.
But the EAC said it had received evidence that the various submissions would result in “an increased amount of waste for storage and reprocessing”.
He wants regulations for SMRs to be simplified so they can be approved and implemented more quickly while ensuring safety standards are not compromised.
The committee also called for value for money assessments of SMR projects to be published for scrutiny before any public spending commitments are made for such plans.
Philip Dunne MP, chair of the CAO, said: “The UK has the opportunity to be a true world leader in manufacturing nuclear SMR capability with huge export potential.”
However, he warned that “uncertainty risks having knock-on effects for industry confidence…not only for investment decisions related to initial construction and the construction of factories to build reactor modules, but also for the support and growth of supply chains and skills. .
He added: “We simply do not yet know how much SMRs will contribute to electricity generation in the country, nor how much their implementation is likely to cost the taxpayer.”
The UK will get about 14 percent of its total electricity from nuclear power in 2022, compared to almost a quarter in the 1990s, as it increasingly relies on renewable sources such as solar and wind.
Nuclear power output is expected to fall further this decade as many plants retire, although capacity at Hinkley Point C, currently under construction, will offset much of the decline.
Last week, the The Financial Times reported that GBN was in talks with Japanese conglomerate Hitachi. acquire land in Wylfa, Anglesey, with the aim of converting the site into a new nuclear power station.
The government wants the UK to have up to 24GW of nuclear capacity by 2050, which could provide around 25 per cent of the UK’s projected electricity demand.