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The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Nuclear Energy report, Made in Britain: The Pathway to a Nuclear Renaissance, says multiple small modular reactor (SMR) units should be ordered to justify firms' investment in UK production facilities - and calls for Wylfa in North Wales to be backed within the next year as the next large-scale plant. 

EDF says around 10,000 people are now working at Hinkley Point C (Image: EDF)

The report, by a group of members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, says that the arms-length body set up to deliver the UK's nuclear expansion - Great British Nuclear (GBN) - should set contract conditions requiring the use of British supply chains. This would mean that even if foreign SMR designs are selected, they would be "effectively made by British industry". The report says the requirement to maximise UK content, should start "with the use of UK nuclear fuel, which is our most mature supply chain capability".

"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. Companies like Sheffield Forgemasters, for instance, now owned by the Ministry of Defence, could make reactor pressure vessels for civilian SMRs," the report says.

It says that by doing so, the UK can replicate the most successful aspects of the experience of South Korea, which had no nuclear power plants in the 1970s but which now has 24 GW capacity with 4 GW under construction and 5 GW exported. As well as ordering multiple units of each of the winning SMR designs in the current selection process, it says "GBN should standardise on the single most successful SMR design after the initial deployment phase. This will concentrate investment efficiently on the required capabilities, allowing swifter introduction of UK content and more competitive exports".

On the planning front, it suggests imposing a net-zero duty on all planning regulators and also designation of nuclear as a Critical National Priority. It says GBN should choose its SMR Technology Partners and agree co-funding agreements by Spring 2024, saying the government "must be willing to take equity shares in the first SMR projects and to order enough units in the first wave to get the programme off the ground". It says that at the same time a technology partner should be chosen to "deliver a major, multi-reactor, large-scale nuclear project at Wylfa before the Parliament is out", which it will be by December 2024 at the latest.

All-Party Parliamentary Groups are not formal Parliamentary committees and do not have legislative powers but are forums for parliamentarians to discuss an issue or topic - in this case civil nuclear energy - on a cross-party basis. This group says its aim is that "working with the civil nuclear industry, we can assist the UK Government in developing better legislation for nuclear power that will drive forward the UK's ambition to achieve net-zero and ensure a secure domestic energy supply for future generations".

The UK's energy strategy unveiled in April set the target for eight new reactors plus small modular reactors to produce 24 GWe capacity by 2050, meeting about 25% of the UK's projected electricity demand. The UK currently generates about 15% of its electricity from about 6.5 GW of nuclear capacity. The first new nuclear capacity in the UK for about 30 years is being built by EDF at Hinkley Point C - two EPRs producing 3.2 GW of electricity - with a final investment decision also expected on a similar sized project at Sizewell C within the next few months.

Last month GBN announced that EDF, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy International LLC, Holtec Britain Limited, NuScale Power, Rolls Royce SMR and Westinghouse Electric Company UK Limited had been selected to bid for UK government contracts in the next stage of the SMR selection process which will provide support for up to four technologies to pursue a project through Final Investment Decision to construction and operation, with the support including "funding to support technology development site-specific design, a close partnership with Great British Nuclear which will be ready and able to provide developer capability" and support in accessing sites.

Ian Liddell-Grainger, Conservative MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset and and chairman of the all-party group, said: "Ramping up nuclear capacity to the levels needed for energy security and net-zero will require a monumental effort from government and industry. The steps outlined in this report shows how the UK can deliver on its commitment to nuclear and ensure we don’t fall behind the progress being made by other countries."

Charlotte Nichols Labour MP for Warrington North co-chair of the group, said: "Britain must show it is serious about its nuclear renaissance and by following these steps it can deliver on its ambition. The reward is huge: Building 20 GW more nuclear would sustain 250,000 jobs, adding around GBP20 billion (USD25 billion) to our new green economy each year, as well as providing a base of energy security for the rest of this century. We must act now to keep up momentum and deliver."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News

Date: Saturday, 18 November 2023
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