The UK Government has welcomed the report on small nuclear power plants by MPs on the Westminster Energy Committee – but stressed that its atomic energy policy priority remains the retention and development of the eight existing large-scale nuclear power sites in the UK.
Two of those – at Hunterston, Ayrshire and at Torness, near Edinburgh – are in Scotland where the SNP-led Scottish Government has already effectively ruled out any new-nuclear build on planning grounds.
MPs said that small modular reactors are ‘an attractive proposition’ – albeit that the economic case is unclear – and welcomed future feasibility studies by the UK Dept of Energy (DECC).
MPs also said the Government should support the use of existing nuclear sites for the deployment of small modular reactors, including hosting a demonstration model.
A DECC spokesman said: “The siting of nuclear installations is a sensitive matter and it is not the Government’s intention to name sites, other than those on the nuclear operators’ list as potentially suitable for new nuclear power stations, in advance of such an exercise or of any serious expressions of interest in developing additional sites.
“We recognise that small nuclear reactors will generally raise similar questions of safety and security to those raised by large nuclear reactors. The UK already has robust processes in place to ensure the safe and secure operation and maintenance of the plant as well as transportation and management of fuel and spent fuel.
“Security and safety considerations will be of primary concern to Government as it develops its policy on SMRs.
“There are no commercially operational small nuclear reactors anywhere in the world and designs are still evolving. Therefore it is not possible at this stage to make a definitive statement on the safety and security issues which may be raised by SMRs.
“But any new reactors, including SMRs, proposed for construction and operation in the UK will be subject to robust and independent regulatory scrutiny and will only be allowed to start operating and to continue in operation if and when regulators are satisfied with their safety, security and environmental aspects.”