The debate on Small Modular Reactors continues to warm up. The IAEA recently updated its webpages on the issue. SMRs are currently promoted by parts of the nuclear industry as an answer to the decrease of interest in normal gigawatt (GW)-scale reactors because of economic and technical realities. NTW member Dr. David Lowry intervened on the issue on behalf of Nuclear Transparency Watch during the European Nuclear Energy Forum (ENEF) in Bratislava, June 2018, where he addressed, what he called, some “inconvenient truths” about these smaller reactors. Last month he published on his blog site an overview of articles that illustrate how the issue is currently discussed in the UK, with the responsible energy minister, earlier accused of “crushing” small reactors, first praising SMRs, then renaming them ANTs (advanced nuclear technologies), and then resigning over Brexit.
Just before his resignation, energy minister Richard Harrington announced a further £7 million of funding to regulators to build the capability and capacity needed to assess and licence small reactor designs, and up to £44 million pounds in R&D funding to support Generation IV advanced reactors. This came on top of earlier promised £460 million in the UK government’s Clean Growth Strategy to support work in areas including future nuclear fuels, new nuclear manufacturing techniques, recycling and reprocessing, and advanced reactor design, £8 million on modern safety and security methodologies and advanced fuel studies, and £5 million on materials and manufacturing as part of a Small Business Research Initiative.
Dr. David Lowry thinks it is time for a warning: “This article focuses on the UK, but similar arguments as I brought forward in Bratislava would apply to any other European government confronted with requests for support of this new sector.”