Peter Banks, BANNG Co-ordinator, concludes that advanced nuclear technologies are no answer for Bradwell in the March 2020 column for Regional Life
The nuclear industry has championed a rosy future for their anachronistic technology with the expression “Nuclear Renaissance”. In reality the programme of giant reactors has, so far, produced just one massive building site at Hinkley Point C in Somerset. Promises have also been made for the proposed Sizewell C in Suffolk but that is mired in controversy over its finance, siting problems and environmental destructiveness.
Meanwhile Bradwell B is still a gleam in the Chinese developer’s eyes, yet may not get off the ground at all. No wonder the nuclear industry, backed by the Government, is promoting the idea of more advanced nuclear technologies (ANTs), with SMRs (Small Modular Reactors) being one variant.
Could SMRs rescue the nuclear cause and fight off the challenge of renewables which are tried, tested, far cheaper than nuclear and can be delivered within a short timeframe? And could SMRs be developed at the Bradwell site if and when the Chinese project falls?
The impression their publicity material gives is that SMRs arrive in small modules ready simply to assemble and switch on. This is misleading on four counts –
SMRs, based on conventional technology, are only at the developmental stage and they are unlikely to be ready for deployment for at least a decade.
When (if) they do materialise the reactors and steam generator units will be pre-fabricated in a factory, thereby diminishing the claim that they bring in local employment.
The other parts such as turbines, generators, condensers, radioactive waste fuel stores and cooling systems are all additional.
SMRS are not particularly small. At around 500MW, one SMR would give three times the output of the former Bradwell A station.
It will take several SMRs (about five) to provide the same generating capacity as is proposed for the large Chinese reactors for Bradwell B. SMRs will take up more space and still have a radioactive waste stream that will be expected to remain on-site for 60 -80 years after shutdown at the end of the century.
It is difficult to see how SMRs will be cheaper than the much larger reactors proposed for Bradwell which, though incredibly expensive, should benefit from greater economies of scale.
As for SMRs being a suitable alternative for the proposed Bradwell B, the same issues apply as for any nuclear proposal at the site. Why would anyone see any sense in building a nuclear power station on a crumbling coast so prone to flooding and in such close proximity to residential and substantial seasonal populations?