Please build mini-nukes in Wales, say Welsh MPs

The Trawsfynydd nuclear plant in Snowdonia National Park has been shut down since 1991 and is undergoing the lengthy process of decommissioning, reports The Telegraph.

In a report, MPs on the Welsh Affairs select committee said the site would make an “ideal” location to build small modular reactors, dubbed “mini-nukes”, and urged the Government to designate it as a site for their construction.

Trawsfynydd was not included on the list of approved sites for new nuclear construction drawn up by the Government in 2009, due to its inland, national park location and small size.

But there is growing support in Wales for the idea that it could be suitable for small module reactor (SMR) technology, which is by definition smaller and proponents say will be much easier to construct.

The MPs said that Trawsfynydd would be “an ideal site for a first-of-its-kind SMR”, thanks to the availability of water from Trawsfynydd lake for cooling purposes, the existing grid connections, its history as a nuclear site and the fact it is currently owned by the Government rather than being earmarked for use by another nuclear developer.

The committee heard from the leader of Gwynedd County Council that such a development could help revive the economy in an area that was “bleeding young people” and suffered from low wages and poverty.

About 250 people are currently involved in decommissioning work at Trawsfynydd, but most of these jobs are expected to be lost within the next decade.

The MPs  said that developing SMRs would be “the best option for the future use of Trawsfynydd”, providing economic stimulus and helping keep skilled workers in the area.

In March the Government launched a competition to find the best value SMR design for use in the UK.

It received 38 expressions of interest and has identified 32 companies as eligible to take part in the first phase of the competition.

Andrea Leadsom, the former energy minister, told the committee that the Government was “looking at potential SMR sites and would take Trawsfynydd into consideration”.

However a Government source said it was not yet at the stage of identifying either siting criteria or potential sites.

The process that will be used to identify suitable sites is expected to be set out in an “SMR roadmap” document later this year.

Tom Mundy, UK managing director of NuScale Power, which has entered its SMR technology into the Government’s competition, said: “We welcome the publication of the Select Committee’s report and can see the potential in the Trawsfynydd site being considered for SMR deployment.

“NuScale is currently having discussions with Government as part of the ongoing SMR competition and siting is an important area of consideration.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “New nuclear power stations will provide secure, clean and affordable electricity for consumers across the country.”