Britain may have found the answer to its power crunch in a range of new nuclear plants called Small Modular Reactors (SMRs). These SMRs utilise the same technology behind major new build plants, but scaled down to a sample of the size – so much so that it has been proposed that every town could host one.
SMRs are being touted as the alternative to spending billions on massive-scale projects like Hinkley Point C, which is still to get its go-ahead from the Government. A single modular reactor would provide around a tenth of the energy Hinkley Point C could, and the parts to build them would be small enough to carry by trucks or barges across the country.
Once they arrive at their intended location they could supposedly be built within a 6 to 12 month timescale, far shorter than those of major new build projects. It’s speculated that these plants could be ready for deployment by the mid-2020s.
Not only would these reactors help the UK solve its looming energy issue, caused by the decommissioning of many old nuclear facilities and the closure of coal plants to help meet the country’s climate goals, but they could also help provide great benefits to locals. Although the nuclear industry’s ideal scenario of having an SMR in every town doesn’t seem wholly realistic, their construction in even a handful of towns could provide huge boosts to the economies there, creating more jobs for nuclear experts to lend their skills to.
The deployment of SMRs mainly hinges on one problematic point, the same as Hinkley – the costs involved. Although the SMRs parts would be produced in factories, it would take time and continuous, hefty investments to be made before they achieve an economy of mass production.
Despite the high costs involved, many still think that it would be a better use of the country’s money to attempt to implement SMRs rather than the 10 major new build projects the Government has claimed it wants to build.