Could mini nuclear plants be the future?

Mini nuclear power plants could play a role in ensuring the lights remain on in Britain. Small modular reactors (SMRs) scale down nuclear technology to a fraction of the size […]

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By Jonny Bairstow

Mini nuclear power plants could play a role in ensuring the lights remain on in Britain.

Small modular reactors (SMRs) scale down nuclear technology to a fraction of the size of larger plants and could produce around a tenth of the electricity created by large-scale projects such as Hinkley Point.

Companies developing the technology include Rolls-Royce, NuScale and Toshiba have suggested it could play a big part in the future of energy.

The mini plants would be made in factories, with modular parts small enough to be transported on trucks to sites around the country. They could be assembled in around six to 12 months, roughly a tenth of the time it takes to build full-scale nuclear facilities.

Rolls-Royce’s Chief Scientific Officer, Paul Stein said:”One of the advantages of the SMRs is that they cost a lot less [than large nuclear plants] and it is an easier case to present to private investors.”

They could be ready for deployment by the 2020s and a National Nuclear Laboratory study has suggested Britain could have up to 7GW of SMR capacity in place by 2035.

This is more than double the capacity of the £18 billion Hinkley project, whose final approval has been delayed by the UK Government. China has suggested relations with the UK may suffer if the project does not go ahead.

Anti-nuclear green groups such as Greenpeace are not convinced by SMRs and argue that with advances in renewable technology, Britain may not need any new nuclear plants.