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Mini-nukes must be built using British factories, say MPs

Foreign companies that sell mini nuclear reactors to Britain should be forced to use local suppliers to build them here in a boost for industry, a group of MPs has said.

A report by the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on nuclear energy today urges the Government to require developers to use domestic supply chains when building small modular reactors (SMRs).

This would mean “even foreign SMR designs are effectively made by British industry”, thereby helping to revitalise the country’s sovereign capabilities and creating jobs.

Ian Liddell-Grainger, Tory MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset, and chairman of the APPG, said: “Ramping up nuclear capacity to the levels needed for energy security and net zero will require a monumental effort from government and industry.

“We must seize this opportunity so we can deliver on clean power, energy security and good, green jobs for our country.”

The Government has set a target of generating about 24 gigawatts of power, or one quarter of Britain’s electricity needs, from nuclear by 2050. That is equivalent to the output of as many as eight reactors.

At present, only two are under construction at the Hinkley Point C power station in Somerset, with another two planned in the Sizewell C scheme in Suffolk. Another project could be built at Wylfa, in Anglesey.

Hinkley Point C
One of the two nuclear reactors being built at Hinkley Point C nuclear power station – Daniel Leal/AFP

Meanwhile, almost all of the country’s existing reactors – except those at Sizewell B – are scheduled to come offline by the end of this decade.

SMRs are seen as advantageous because they could in theory be factory-produced in sections and then assembled on site, saving time and money compared to bigger projects.

Great British Nuclear, the public body set up to prepare the ground for mini reactors, has shortlisted six companies in a competition for funding, including Derby-based Rolls-Royce and others from abroad such as General Electric, EDF, NuScale and Westinghouse.

MPs on the APPG said that regardless of which companies succeed in the selection process, ministers should impose conditions on development that “maximise the UK content of any new nuclear programme”.

They argued that the SMR programme could be used to help rebuild the UK’s domestic nuclear manufacturing capabilities, taking inspiration from a strategy used by South Korea.

The APPG report said: “The UK could once make reactor pressure vessels, coolant circulators, boilers and turbines for nuclear power stations. We cannot do any of that today, but we could again.

“To justify the major investment in plant and equipment required, the UK Government must insist that UK content is maximised and then place orders to facilitate that.”

They pointed to the UK’s existing nuclear fuel supply chain as one way British manufacturers could become involved early in the process. The Ministry of Defence-owned Sheffield Forgemasters could also become a supplier of reactor pressure vessels.

The APPG report pointed to the example of South Korea, which since the 1970s has built up its domestic nuclear power industry by ordering American, French and Canadian reactor designs and then collaborating to develop its own local skills and technologies.

South Korea also ensured that it continued to build so that skills and supply chains were retained over time and greater efficiencies could be achieved through repeat-use of designs, MPs added.

It suggests that Great British Nuclear should eventually standardise the best SMR design, helping to concentrate investment and ramp up development.

A Department for Energy Security and Net Zero spokesman said: “Great British Nuclear will help us achieve our ambition to provide up to a quarter of the UK’s electricity from homegrown nuclear energy by 2050, boosting our energy security, reducing dependence on volatile fossil fuel imports and generating around £6bn for the UK economy.

“We will consult later this year on a proposed way forward for determining how new nuclear developments might be located, including the potential for SMR and other advanced nuclear technologies.”

Source: Yahoo