WHAT IS HAPPENING AT TRAWSFYNYDD? – SMR’s and ANTS 

Trawsfynydd is the only inland nuclear power plant in the UK, it was shut down in 1991 after 26 years of operation. However, in June 2018 the UK Government announced a £40m facility to support the design of Advanced Nuclear Technologies (ANT’s) would be developed on the site

Advanced Nuclear Technologies (ANT’s) encompasses Small Modular Reactors (SMR’s) – the term used to describe a wide range of developing nuclear reactor technologies that share a number of common attributes ;

* they are smaller (under 300 Mw) producing about a tenth of the power of a conventional nuclear station

* designed so that much of the plant can be made in a factory and transported to the site.

SMR’s generally fall into two categories

a) Generation III water-cooled SMR’s – similar to existing nuclear power station reactors but on a smaller scale, and b) Generation IV advanced modular reactors, which use other cooling systems or fuels . They range in scale between micro, small and medium scale reactors and which span technology types from conventional water-cooled reactors, to those using novel fuels and coolants.

 

The Westinghouse SMR is a >225 MWe integral pressurized water reactor

The Government is running a two-stage Advanced Modular Reactor (AMR) Programme, managed by Innovate UK where they have invited companies such as Rolls Royce to submit designs / ideas

Stage 1 – Launched in March 2016, offering grants of up to £4 million to support around 8 initiatives to undertake feasibility studies.

Stage 2 – Up to £40 million to support 3-4 vendors to accelerate their designs eg. at Trawsfynydd

WHAT IS WRONG WITH THEM ?

It’s the same old technology – The basic idea actually dates to the 1940s, when the U.S. Air Force, Army, and Navy each initiated R&D on various types of small reactors. Some proponents see them as the solution to the problems facing large

reactors, particularly soaring costs, safety, and radioactive waste. Unfortunately, small-scale reactors can’t solve these problems, and would likely exacerbate them. As the history makes clear, small nuclear reactors would be neither as cheap nor as easy to build and operate as their modern proponents claim.

(IEER/PSR presentation  http://www.ieer.org/fctsheet/small-modular-reactors2010.pdf 

https://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-history/heroic-failures/the-forgotten-history-of-small-nuclear-reactors

It’s the last ditch stand of a dying industry – nuclear power proponents are pinning their hopes on SMR’s without thinking about the new problems they will create such as inspecting production lines , procedures for recalls, or the complications and costs of a variety of new forms of nuclear waste on a number of different sites.

Safety concerns – You need more SMR’s to produce the same amount of energy as conventional stations so that raises issues of safety, quality, licencing and of course security

Cheaper does not necessarily mean cost-effective – In Dec 2017 The Atkins Consultancy report for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said there was “a great deal of uncertainty with regards to the economics of SMR’s. The Report found that power from SMRs would cost nearly one-third more than conventional nuclear stations because of reduced economies of scale and the costs of deploying first-of-a-kind technology.” http://www.atkinsglobal.com/en-GB/angles/all-angles/our-nuclear-future

Efficiency and most renewable technologies are already cheaper than new large reactors. The time it will take to certify SMRs will do little or nothing to help with the global warming problem and will actually complicate current efforts underway.

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