Small modular reactors could be operating in the UK by 2030 – report 

Posted: October 14, 2016 by oldbrew in Energy, Nuclear power
Tags: ,

Small modular reactor [credit: ANS Nuclear Cafe]

Small modular reactor [credit: ANS Nuclear Cafe]

With enough government backing SMRs could be a competitive alternative to unreliable renewables in the long term. PoliticsHome reporting.

Small modular reactors (SMRs) could be operating in the UK by 2030 and the Government has a crucial role to play in encouraging early investor confidence, according to a new report by the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI). 

The report argues that there are economic benefits in deploying SMRs as combined heat and power plants linked to district heating networks. The report, ‘Preparing For Deployment of A UK Small Modular Reactor By 2030’, examines what needs to take place to support the potential first operations of a SMR in the UK.

The report says that a credible integrated schedule can be achieved if action is taken to create investor confidence through the development of a policy framework which progressively reduces risks for an SMR developer.

The detailed study has also re-assessed the technical viability and cost impact of deploying SMRs as Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plants, rather than for just power generation. It again highlights the economic benefits of extracting low carbon heat for supply to district heating networks.

Due to their smaller size and easier siting SMRs offer flexibility and could deliver low carbon heat into cities via hot water pipelines up to 30km in length. This flexibility opens up new potential sites and can help to decarbonise energy use in buildings.

Therefore consideration should be given to the concept of deploying SMRs as “CHP ready”, even if there is no firm local demand for district heating systems at the time of SMR deployment. This is because the additional costs are small and the potential future revenues large, bringing benefits to both consumers and SMR operators.

One of the benefits of SMR technology is that they can be built to a standard design in factories before being assembled on site. This standardisation has the potential to accelerate cost reduction through the economy of multiples.

The ETI report says that a range of locations have the characteristics for potential early deployment of UK SMRs, including a number of sites potentially suitable for a UK First of a Kind SMR.

Full report: Small modular reactors could be operating in the UK by 2030 – report |

  1. dai davies says:

    The key question is how they rank if decarbonisation is taken out of the economics.

  2. oldbrew says:

    Economies of scale depend on significant production totals, by definition.

  3. tchannon says:

    I very much disagree with the whole idea of small systems being imposed onto an inherent large system environment, fiscal stupidity.

    We need at least two orders of magnitude greater generation capacity than currently provided, perhaps more if society is moved to electricity based. Reason: all present systems must convert, a can do.

    Such major power generation, using far larger plant than currently even foreseen, is the stuff of as few staff as necessary. Pushing on from this some home truths appear with perhaps firstly the slaughter of an old fable:- unmetered domestic power. Reason: metering is uneconomic. Reason: Metering is a sales regime, a rationing regime only applicable where there is genuine shortage; a sales edifice, many people all employed doing rationing is farcical, if very common in society. Selling adds nothing of use. The same human resource ought to be doing something useful or these days more sensibly they are redundant. (a whole raft of discussion topic are there)

    Area heating is rarely worthwhile although given copious energy it then comes down to the economics of the infrastructure as well of whether it actually works from the end customer point of view.

    [Yes, Tim the bad is back, actually gained access to my PC even though I am lying under a blanket on my bed, recovering from chemotherapy and radiotherapy, last scan showed no cancers… ho ho ho as if it won’t come back, can hope though. The PC is a floor above being remote controlled, displaying on a tablet, tricky small but works. The key is a 2.4GHz keyboard and mouse set remoting on the PC through the ceiling here. (so the tablet ghastly control regime lies unused).
    Can’t tell yet how long before I get back to normal, very very bad man. 🙂 ]

  4. oldbrew says:

    What we don’t want is SMRs that are only allowed to be used when it’s not windy enough 😐

  5. tchannon says:

    Indeed so, flat out is the right mode for good lifetime, vary and cracks etc. are only too happy to appear.

    The answer, at least in a sane world, is trivial. Continuous but slightly variable industrial processes mop up variation. A good case is electrochemical engineering, used today but must be massively expanded in the future… when sanity rules. Yeah, right.

    Electrochemical engineering?
    Explaining what I mean and by example: many industrial and domestic chemicals are produced from cruder chemicals via reaction cells and electricity. In other cases by breakdown, trivial case chlorine gas from common salt, brine.

    Refining of metals should be included. As it stands without copious electricity there are no light metals, aluminium, magnesium and others. Any metal can be processed even if it is just crude thermal processing, normally uneconomic, so we don’t.

    We do not yet do many important processes such as producing liquid fuel for transport from cruder feedstock.

    It is also used for cleaning foul water during effluent cleanup, similarly for producing clean water, and so on.

    And much more

  6. Climatism says:

    Reblogged this on Climatism and commented:
    The sooner the better. Then UK hospitals won’t have to “turn off their lights and air-conditioners and turn on their emergency diesel generators to pump power back into the grid, every time British breezes turn to zephyrs.”

    A true, “you can’t make this stuff up” story! …

  7. oldbrew says:

    PEI: Potential grid game changer developed in the UK

    ‘Reactive Technologies have successfully transmitted data across the UK electricity grid, the first time this has been done on a national electricity grid.’

    So they can turn your freezer off for a short period if power supplies run too low.

  8. oldmanK says:

    The IMechE mentioned this piece of news as here below:

    But followed it with this:

    Calls for very serious considerations and planning. Many years ago a Westinghouse engineer sharing my office for a few days told me ‘We’ don’t sell to governments any more – because the first thing they cut down to reduce costs is maintenance.

  9. Look that the Korean Smart reactors here
    Find this statement
    KAERI has designed an integrated desalination plant based on the SMART reactor to produce 40,000 m3/day of water and 90 MWe of power at less than the cost of gas turbine. The first of these was envisaged for Madura Island, Indonesia, but the focus is now on the Middle East.

    Also see this for large PS -36 months construction time “KHNP’s 4308 MWt, 1500 MWe APR+ gained design approval from NSSC in August 2014. It was “developed with original domestic technology”, up to 100% localized, over the seven years since 2007, with export markets in view. It has modular construction which is expected to give 36-month construction time instead of 52 months for APR1400. It has 16 more fuel assemblies than APR1400, of a new design, and passive decay heat removal. Also it is more highly reinforced against aircraft impact than any earlier designs”

  10. Curious George says:

    14 years needed to deploy the first small reactor. A speedy innovation, indeed.

  11. Curious George says:

    Tim, good luck.

  12. p.g.sharrow says:

    Things that look good on paper may be poor in the reality of operations over long period of time.
    The greatest problem of small plants is operations and maintenance. Large plants can schedule the people and expertise necessary to maintain the plant over the long term often doubling it’s useful life. Large plants can afford the overhead of operators being on hand at all times. Small plants must be automated throughout Soon out of sight out of mind takes over until things go wrong.

    In my experience this will not be a good choice for grid stability and safety. Modular reactors grouped at a reservation for centralized generation and distribution would be a great idea towards creating a permanent solution. Spent reactors could be replaced as needed and moved on site for storage and recycling…pg

  13. p.g.sharrow says:

    @tim cannon; glad to hear you are back on line, even if it is remote. 😉 I also use a 2.4GHz keyboard/mouse on one of my smaller computers. Not as nice as a real keyboard and mouse but way better then a touch screen! Now I need to get the Big screen to act as the display and I can do my computer work from the easy chair. 😎 …pg

  14. ren says:

    The solar wind modulates the distribution of ozone over the polar circle. Distribution of ozone determines the pressure over the polar circle and influences the speed of the zonal winds.

    Changing circulation (jet stream) during a low magnetic activity of the sun blocks the development of La Niña.

  15. gallopingcamel says:

    Much as I love Tim Channon and p.g. I can’t agree with them on this issue.

    Small nuclear reactors have immense benefits owing to the fact that they can be mass produced in factories and shipped to site on a single truck or boat. The USA alone would have no difficulty in producing one 100 MWe NPP (Nuclear Power Plant) each day.

    There are many designs available and there will be absolutely no need for government subsidies. Nuclear reactors and especially “Gen IV” reactors are absurdly profitable. Unlike wind and solar they don’t need government subsidies…………all they need is for the government to get out of the way.

    When you build huge power plants you need high voltage transmission lines that are mostly “Open Wire”. Open wire is vulnerable to nuclear EMP attacks and “Carrington Events”. If the 1859 solar storm were to happen tomorrow it would destroy many of our high voltage transformers and it would take many months to replace them:

    When you have small modular power plants you have much less need for a vulnerable high voltage “Grid”. Such plants can be installed “Below Grade” which makes them invulnerable to anything but a missile strike. There are several “Gen IV” NPP designs that are “Fail Safe” so that loss of back up generators or coolant will not damage the reactor.

  16. oldbrew says:

    Nuclear developers have big plans for small power plants in U.K. – REUTERS

    “From a technical perspective, there is no reason why you wouldn’t be able to make a smaller version of an already commercially viable nuclear technology such as PWR (pressurized water reactor),” said Mike Tynan, director of Britain’s Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre.

  17. oldbrew says:

    PEI: Fossil fuels to the rescue as UK reduces blackout risk

    Britain faces an ongoing challenge in meeting the energy requirement for the winter period as coal continues to be phased out and older nuclear plants are decommissioned.

    It is estimated that about 60 per cent of UK generating capacity in 2010 is forecast to have disappeared by 2030.

  18. gallopingcamel says:

    Scaling down PWRs as proposed by several organizations including Cambridge university is a dead end…………you still need a pressure vessel.

    Generation IV reactors have the potential to be much cheaper, especially those that operate at one bar pressure. The better designs shut themselves down safely without human intervention.

    Gen IV MSRs (Molten Salt Reactors) are much more nimble than PWRs so they can respond rapidly to changes in demand. Here is a link to an early (1965) MSR that was shut down each Friday evening and then restarted on Monday morning:

  19. oldbrew says:

    @ GC There are 4 types of small PWR reactor listed here:

    They say that’s ‘A small selection of the current SMR designs’ [of any type].

  20. tchannon says:

    galloping camel, as you know we can disagree without problem.

    I don’t see significant sized nuclear being suitable for the UK simply because in this land transporting anything large is especially difficult. Modular would have to mean breakage into small pieces.

    A more serious problem revolves around the lack of safety, reliability, a classic fault intolerant system, one of the reasons for the usage of power distribution systems. How would eg. maintenance be handled?

    I’ve not looked into the costs but 100MW is awful small. What is the definite lifetime? And then what?

    As I wrote, we actually need orders of magnitude greater generation capacity, everything has to be replaced where a lot of that means a reduction in process efficiency. If those are 100MW, even 1GW is only one order of magnitude, see the problem?

  21. tchannon says:

    pg sharrow,
    Using VNC to remote the screen and display on an android tablet.
    Wake on LAN is active.
    Add the keyboard and mouse, works rather well, if with screen resolution turned down. (can alter this via remote)
    I’m going to try putting together a serious article, find out the limitations.

    Today and yesterday I’m reaching the conclusion chemotherapy and radiotherapy effects have bottomed out, is now a matter of clawing back up. Today, apart from briefly going to a shop, for the first time in ages I corrected the car tyre pressures and roughly washed it too. Okay so my pulse rate is around 110, point is I felt able and managed. Medics can’t figure out yet why the high pulse rate, tests show nothing. I am wondering if it is simply I am very unfit. Only thing turned up was dehydration, which will raise a pulse rate.

  22. oldbrew says:

    tc says: ‘I am wondering if it is simply I am very unfit.’

    That could well match the situation IMHO. Of course I’m not a medical professional, but am interested in fitness. If the rate goes over 120 maybe take a break at least until it settles back down below that.

  23. gallopingcamel says:

    “Okay so my pulse rate is around 110, point is I felt able and managed. Medics can’t figure out yet why the high pulse rate, tests show nothing.”

    I resemble that!

    Getting old (and sick) sucks. For fifty years strenuous exercise (wing three-quarter) kept my pulse rate in the low fifties but thanks to arthritis (making running impossible) and heart problems (AFIB) I now dread having my rate checked. If it less than 100 I am having a good day.

    Hang in there, I am already ten years past my three score and ten. You can do it too!

  24. gallopingcamel says:

    “I don’t see significant sized nuclear being suitable for the UK simply because in this land transporting anything large is especially difficult. Modular would have to mean breakage into small pieces.”

    My definition of a small modular reactor is one that can be delivered by road a single truck. When it comes to “Gen IV” the leading authority is GIF (Generation IV International Forum).

    GIF says that the only “Gen IV” technology that can deliver “mature” reactors by 2050 is the SFR that is cooled by liquid sodium. GIF looked at five other approaches:
    – Very High Temperature Reactors (VHTR)
    – Gas-cooled Fast Reactors (GFR)
    – Lead-cooled or Lead-Bismuth Eutectic (LBE) cooled Fast Reactors (LFR)
    – Molten Salt Reactors (MSR)
    – SuperCritical Water Reactors (SCWR)

    GIF concluded that none of these technologies are likely to become viable before the end of this century:

    Click to access IRSN_Report-GenIV_04-2015.pdf

    GIF underestimates human ingenuity. They remind me of Lord Kelvin who famously remarked:
    “There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now, All that remains is more and more precise measurement.”

    People like David LeBlanc and Kirk Sorensen may make GIF look clueless.

  25. Sleepalot says:

    The UK “Astute” class submarine is intended to run 25 years without refuelling.

  26. oldbrew says:

    Euan Mearns had a recent blog post about SMRs: ‘The UK’s Small Modular Reactor Competition’

    The author Andy Dawson wrote:
    …my views are close to those of Admiral Rickover, the creator of the US “nuclear navy”:

    “An academic reactor or reactor plant almost always has the following basic characteristics: (1) It is simple. (2) It is small. (3) It is cheap. (4) It is light. (5) It can be built very quickly. (6) It is very flexible in purpose. (7) Very little development will be required. It will use off-the-shelf components. (8) The reactor is in the study phase. It is not being built now.

    On the other hand a practical reactor can be distinguished by the following characteristics: (1) It is being built now. (2) It is behind schedule. (3) It requires an immense amount of development on apparently trivial items. (4) It is very expensive. (5) It takes a long time to build because of its engineering development problems. (6) It is large. (7) It is heavy. (8) It is complicated…”.

    Andy Dawson looks at some of the likely contenders e.g. Westinghouse and Rolls-Royce.

    NB the post was written in June and mentions DECC which has since been broken up.

  27. rishrac says:

    How small? And who is going to safe guard it so that some crazy decides it’s their way or no way? Some people don’t have a live and let live philosophy regarding life.

  28. oldbrew says:

    rishrac – see image at top of post.

  29. oldmanK says:

    What you see in the image is only the core – the heat source-, a controlled nuclear ‘bomb’ -minus the required set-up. See pic in here: Converting that energy to electricity requires much more. A whole power station is needed – turbine-generator and all the rest.

    The cycle is the Rankine ( ). Because of radiation problems, the complications are much larger that for coal, gas or oil as the energy source.

  30. rishrac says:

    Old brew, I did see that, but for some reason, I thought small… as in the size of a car or house. This is a little larger than the small I had in mind.