Indecision on nuclear policy, particular small modular reactors (SMRs), has seriously damaged the UK’s ability to form effective national policies, warns a new report by the House of Lords.
The report called ‘Nuclear research and technology: Breaking the cycle of indecision’, said the UK had reached a critical moment and called for the government to urgently decide if the UK is to be a ‘serious player’ in developing nuclear generation technology. It called on the government to stop sitting on the fence and make a decision about the part it wants to play in nuclear policy, whether that is as a designer, operator, manufacturer, or all three. From this, other decisions would flow.
Failure to make a decision on a strategy for small modular reactors (SMRs) was cited in the report as a prime example of the government’s inaction in the civil nuclear arena. If the government did not act soon, industrial interest would not be maintained, the report claimed.
Committee chairman Earl of Selborne said: “The UK has long-standing and continuing commitments to civil nuclear energy and is now strategically positioned to capture opportunities, especially for small modular reactors. The incoming government must end its cycle of indecision on nuclear policy and we urge it to take a clear, firm view on SMRs and wider civil nuclear strategy.
Commenting on the report, Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) chief executive Tom Greatrex said it shared the Committee’s frustration, saying the first stage of the SMR competition had been ‘left hanging in the air’.
“With a potential global market for SMRs valued at £250bn to £400bn, the government must provide clarity as soon as possible after the general election if the energy, industrial and export opportunities of a UK SMR are to be realised,” said Greatrex.
“Otherwise that promising opportunity of recent years will be lost to others, including the US, Canada and China, who are progressing with SMR development programmes.”