Britain's on the brink of a small-scale nuclear reactor revolution
Wednesday, May 24, 2017 at 07:59PM
Uranium Stocks

Concrete being poured at Hinkley Point C. Picture courtesy of EDF Energy

Sure, there are hurdles, but no £18bn hole on the other side like Hinkley Point

For the first time ever in April, the UK's data centres and clouds ran on electricity generated without burning coal.

The National Grid celebrated the news on Twitter with the promise of more coal-free days to come.

As coal-fired power plants wind down and with talk of blackouts in the air, nuclear is back on the table after the government gave the go-ahead last year for a third reactor at Hinkley Point in Somerset. Hinkley Point C is an £18bn, 35-year scheme that'll be operated by EDF. It took financial backing from the Chinese government to land.

However, a cheaper and smaller alternative is emerging if activity from British entrepreneurs and academics is anything to judge by – the small "modular" nuclear reactor, or SMR.

Mini reactors are nothing new – they have been installed in nuclear submarines since the 1950s, and Rolls-Royce produced them for the Royal Navy for decades.

An SMR is defined as producing 300MWe – just 10 per cent of what Hinkley Point C should provide.

SMRs are defined as reactor systems that are comparatively small, compact and entirely factory built. As a result, SMRs can be placed underground or underwater and moved for decommissioning. They employ "passive" safety systems that do not require human intervention – therefore fewer staff – and use a relatively small amount of nuclear material. There are a number of different SMR designs.

An attractive proposition

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