Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Britain’s unlikely-to-succeed bet on Rolls Royce small nuclear reactors

 

…..Advanced Modular Reactors are unlikely to be available before 2045 if ever – much too late to be any help in tackling the climate emergency. .….

Small Modular Reactors s will only proceed if the risk to RR money is minimal. That means RR will only put serious effort into design development with government guarantees given now, before the design exists, and it has been reviewed by ONR, a demonstration plant has been completed, and costs are known. 

SMRs will only proceed if the risk to RR money is minimal. That means RR will only put serious effort into design development with government guarantees given now, before the design exists, and it has been reviewed by ONR, a demonstration plant has been completed, and costs are known. 

UK taxpayers would have to provide a large proportion of the cost of design development, navigating the regulators design assessment and assist in the setting up of component production lines. It would also have to guarantee orders for a minimum of 16 reactors, which, even on Rolls Royce’s unrealistic cost estimate, would be a commitment to spend nearly £30bn before it has progressed beyond a conceptual design.

Johnson Loves Pie in the Sky nuClear News N0. 131 April 2021, We saw in June 2020 (nuClear News No. 126) how the Nuclear Innovation and Research Advisory Board (NIRAB) has been advising the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) that we need three streams of nuclear product development and deployment:

 • large-scale Light Water Reactors (LWRs), which are currently available and suitable for baseload electricity generation;
 • small modular reactors (SMRs), which are based on the same proven technology and can offer additional flexibility to meet local energy needs;

 • advanced modular reactors (AMRs), which typically have a higher temperature output, enabling them to contribute to decarbonisation through heat and hydrogen production, as well as generate electricity at competitive costs. 

Small modular and advanced nuclear reactors are proposed, supposedly, as potential ways of dealing with some of the problems of large nuclear reactors —specifically economic competitiveness, risk of accidents, link to proliferation and production of waste. Yet Gregory Jaczko, Former Chair US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, says Advanced Nuclear Technologies should only be supported “if they can compete with renewables & storage on deployment cost & speed, public safety, waste disposal, operational flexibility & global security. There are none today.” (1) 

The UK Government’s Policy Paper on ‘Advanced Nuclear Technologies’ (ANTs) specifies two broad categories of ANT. Firstly, Generation III water-cooled reactors similar to existing nuclear power station reactors but smaller, it calls Small Modular Reactors (SMRs). This is despite the fact that the Rolls Royce design which it is supporting is 470MW – much larger than the maximum 300MW defined by IAEA as small.   

  Secondly, Generation IV which use novel cooling systems or fuels to offer new functionality (such as industrial process heat) it calls Advanced Modular Reactors (AMRs). (2) 

In July 2019 the UK Government gave an initial £18m to Rolls-Royce to help them develop the design for an SMR. This was to be matched with funding from the consortium led by Rolls-Royce (and including Assystem, SNC Lavalin/Atkins, Wood, Arup, Laing O’Rourke, BAM Nuttall, Siemens, National Nuclear Laboratory, and Nuclear AMRC). (3)

A year earlier, in June 2018, as part of the UK government’s £200 million Nuclear Sector Deal, £56 million was put towards the development and licensing of advanced modular reactor designs. Eight non-light water reactor (non-LWR) vendors each received £4 million to perform detailed technical and commercial feasibility studies. Those vendors were Advanced Reactor Concepts, DBD, LeadCold, Moltex Energy, Tokamak Energy, U-Battery Developments, Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC), and Westinghouse Electric Company UK. (4) This was Phase One of the Advanced Modular Reactor (AMR) Feasibility and Development Project. Then in July 2020 Phase Two was announced with 3 AMRs receiving a share of £40m: U-Battery (4MW hig   temperature reactor), Westinghouse (450MW lead-cooled fast reactor) & Tokamak (fusion). A possible further £5m was also made available to regulators to support this. (5) In November 2020, Boris Johnson’s 10 Point Plan confirmed the Government’s commitment to advancing large, small and advanced reactors, and announced an Advanced Nuclear Fund of up to £385 million which included:


 • funding of up to £215 million for Small Modular Reactors (SMRs); • up to £170 million for Advanced Modular Reactors (AMRs); • up to £40 million to develop regulatory frameworks and support UK supply chains to help bring these technologies to market.

According to the Energy & Climate Change Intelligence Unit (ECIU) the investment in small modular reactors (SMRs) was less than expected. “If I was in the SMR game I’d be disappointed with this because £2bn support for a small initial fleet of reactors has been paired back to just over £500M.” (6) 


Professor Steve Thomas says the 3 AMRs are unlikely to be available before 2045 if ever – much too late to be any help in tackling the climate emergency. (7) 

The Rolls Royce (RR) SMR design is still at an early stage. It was only announced in 2016. It is slightly larger than the first unit at Fukushima (470MW vs 439MW) and much larger than the Trawsfynydd Magnox reactors, which were 250MW. Rolls Royce claims the first reactor could be operational by 2030, but it’s hard to see how this can be achieved. Even if achieved it is probably too late. By 2030 only Sizewell B and possibly Hinkley Point C will be operating and if the UK is to meet its targets of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 68% by 2030 and 78% by 2035, we should by then be well on the road to a low carbon economy with a limited nuclear capacity   

  Thomas says SMRs will only proceed if the risk to RR money is minimal. That means RR will only put serious effort into design development with government guarantees given now, before the design exists, and it has been reviewed by ONR, a demonstration plant has been completed, and costs are known. 

Rolls-Royce told the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee in 2016 that 7GW of power would “be of sufficient scale to provide a commercial return on investment from a UKdeveloped SMR, but it would not be sufficient to create a long-term, sustainable business for UK plc.” Therefore, any SMR manufacturer would have to look to export markets to make a return on their investment.

 Rolls Royce is making extraordinary demands on the UK Government that it must commit to before further significant development work takes place. Thomas says RR would need:   

  •  Exclusive access to UK market; 

• Matched funding (minimum) up to end of Generic Design Assessment;   
  Sharing of costs for production line facilities (to produce 2 reactors per year); 

• Guaranteed orders for 7GW (16 reactors).

 UK taxpayers would have to provide a large proportion of the cost of design development, navigating the regulators design assessment and assist in the setting up of component production lines. It would also have to guarantee orders for a minimum of 16 reactors, which, even on Rolls Royce’s unrealistic cost estimate, would be a commitment to spend nearly £30bn before it has progressed beyond a conceptual design. The first plant must be made using production lines so all 16 reactors must be ordered now & by the time the first is completed, another 8 will be on their way. (8)   

  Rolls Royce claims a construction time of 4 years & costs (after 5 units) of £1.8bn (£3800/kW), which means electricity at £40-60/MWh. These claims are extraordinary but very similar to those made for Hinkley Point C. In 2000, it had been claimed the EPR would be built in four years or less and would cost $1000/kW (about £800/kW). In fact, all EPR’s that have been built have gone far over budget and all will take much more than 4 years to construct. The latest cost estimate for Hinkley Point C is about £27bn (2020 money) or about £8400/kW. Rolls Royce’s claims must therefore be taken with a very large pinch of salt. 

Steve Thomas comments: 
“The UK Government’s ‘Green Industrial Revolution’ 10-point plan of November 2020 seemed to include a major strengthening of the commitment to Small Modular Reactors (SMRs). However, closer examination shows much of the money is far from committed and the focus is on technologies that have little chance of contributing to meeting the UK’s target of zero-carbon by 2050. There remains no firm commitment to the Rolls Royce SMR and it must be hoped the government is unwilling to gamble the huge sums of money Rolls Royce is demanding to be promised if it is to progress the design from the early stage it is currently at.”   ………   https://www.no2nuclearpower.org.uk/wp/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/nuClearNewsNo131.pdf


April 24, 2021 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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