Trudy Harrison: There is huge potential to power the nation using small nuclear reactors. Interest is growing in the potential for small modular reactors to provide low-cost, low-carbon energy – and Cumbria is well-placed to lead the charge, says Trudy Harrison. The global nuclear industry feels to me like it’s suffering a disease akin to gangrene, with bits dropping off. My passion for the industry isn’t just about jobs. There is a demonstrable need for clean, low-carbon electricity now and long into the future. The anticipated requirement for electric vehicles alone could reach an additional capacity of 18GW by 2040. If we are really serious about slowing down climate change, then nuclear must provide a hearty part of the energy mix. And in my Copeland constituency we have an indisputable capability; nowhere else in Europe could you find such a concentration of knowledge and skills. Yet, we’re facing an uncertain future. First Moorside then Wylfa – the headlines have not been positive for new nuclear, despite significant government efforts and financial incentives. Economies of scale, based on the size of a reactor have been, until very recently at least, widely regarded as the most cost-efficient method of development. But it wasn’t always like that. Calder Hall, which began construction in 1953 in Copeland, generated electricity from 1956. It was officially opened by the Queen and consisted of four 50MW Magnox reactors which transmitted electricity into the National Grid for 47 years, until 2003. Today we are desperately fighting to get a whopping 3.4GW power station over the line. But Moorside, the proposed new Generation III nuclear power station to be built adjacent to the Sellafield site, has been beset by a range of problems over many years. One answer could be to build multiple reactors, not bigger reactors. Large reactors try to lower costs by maximising economies of scale, but small nuclear reactors (SMRs) would try to do it with economies of multiples. Having many more SMRs could be the key to our nuclear future.
Politics Home 18th Feb 2019 read more »