Call to make small nuclear plants in Sheffield to combat climate crisis

Former trade minister Richard Caborn has urged the Prime Minister to back small nuclear reactors made in Sheffield to combat the climate crisis and level up the North.

Wednesday, 3rd November 2021, 11:15 am

Mr Caborn has written to Boris Johnson with his solution for a ‘significant increase in carbon free electricity generating capacity’ that also offers energy security, a boost to manufacturing jobs and exports and less cost than traditional nuclear power stations.

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The letter was sent ahead of Mr Johnson’s appearance at the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, billed as the ‘last chance’ to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees.

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Former Sheffield MP and trade minister Richard Caborn

Mr Caborn is an ambassador to industry in Sheffield including the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre and steelmaker Forgemasters.

HOW DO SMALL MODULAR REACTORS WORK?

Small modular reactors are designed to be made in sections in a factory and assembled on site, with about 12 generating the same power as a Sizewell B Reactor, he states.

American firm NuScale is building one now which has ‘all the regulatory requirements in the US and will be producing electricity by 2029’.

Rolls-Royce design for a Small Modular Reactor

He added: “With the challenges you and your Government are facing on the energy front, and to address the energy gap the nation is facing at the end of the decade, I am writing to offer Sheffield’s engineering capacity and skills to deliver, at pace, a significant increase in carbon free electricity generating capacity.”

HOW WOULD SMRs BOOST MANUFACTURING IN SHEFFIELD?

He added: “The manufacture of SMRs in Sheffield is consistent with the government’s recent decision to invest in plant and machinery at Sheffield Forgemasters.”

The MoD has just bought the Brightside company and pledged to invest £400m into the firm.

Mr Caborn added: “This gives Britain a unique opportunity to become one of the world’s leading producers and operators of SMRs.”

WHAT IS ENERGY SECURITY?

They would also provide carbon free power when the wind stops blowing and increase the security of the nation’s energy supply by reducing dependency on imported fuel.

He added: ‘But we need to act fast. Successive governments have delayed crucial decisions on developing small, lower cost reactors to replace the large reactors that will be soon be decommissioned: making it all the more difficult to keep the lights on while hitting our net zero ambitions’.

And he signed off: ‘So Boris, in that old Yorkshire saying, ‘Stop buggerin’ abaht ‘n’ ger on wi’ it!’.

Last month, the government published the Net Zero Strategy setting out how the UK will deliver on its legally binding commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050. It includes £120million for nuclear projects but does not mention SMRs specifically.

The strategy states: ‘There remain a number of optimal sites, including the Wylfa site in Anglesey. Funding like this could support our path to decarbonising the UK’s electricity system 15 years earlier from 2050 to 2035’.

In November last year, the government announced up to £385 million Advanced Nuclear Fund to enable investment of up to £215 million into small modular reactors to develop a domestic smaller-scale power plant technology design that could potentially be built in factories and then assembled on site. It will unlock up to £300 million private sector match-funding.Funding has yet to be released.

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