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Terms of reference: Small nuclear power

4 March 2014

The Energy and Climate Change Committee has announced its inquiry into small nuclear power.

Nuclear power stations have been growing in size, from a typical size in the 1950s of 60 MWe to modern plants up to 1.6 GWe. At the same time many smaller nuclear power reactors have been built for naval use.

The International Atomic Energy Agency defines ‘small’ as under 300 MWe, and up to about 700 MWe as ‘medium’ yet this includes radically different technologies. In 2011 there were 125 small and medium units in operation and 17 under construction, in 28 countries, totalling 57 GWe capacity.

Small reactors potentially have many useful applications, including electricity generation and industrial process heat, desalination or water purification, and co-generation applications, such as in the petrochemical industry. Their small size and potential for modular construction may allow some new small reactors to be built in a controlled factory setting and installed module by module, improving manufacturing efficiency and cost while reducing construction time and financing costs.

In our report, Building New Nuclear: the challenges ahead, we recommended that the Department of Energy and Climate Change monitor progress toward developing small nuclear reactors, so that the possibility of including these as part of the UK energy mix remains open. The Government responded that ultimately it is a matter for developers and operators to decide what type of fuel and technology to propose for future reactor systems and for the UK’s Nuclear Regulators to be satisfied that plants meet their safety, security and environmental requirements, and that the Government maintains a watch on a wide range of reactor technologies that have the potential to contribute to the future energy mix.

Terms of Reference

The Committee invites responses addressing some or all of the following issues:

  • What is small nuclear power? How do developers and operators decide what type of fuels and technologies to use?Specifically, what scope is there:
  • for developing small modular reactors (SMR) in the UK?
  • to use thorium in small reactors and how applicable is it to the UK?
  • to use ‘pebble bed’ fuels in small reactors?
  • to use nuclear waste in small reactors and what role can reactor designs such as PRISM reactors play?
  • Should small nuclear power be utilised in the UK? To what extent is this already happening? What scope is there for greater use in the future?
  • What are the barriers (e.g. costs, regulations, licensing, public acceptance) to developing and deploying small nuclear power in the UK? How can these barriers be overcome?
  • What are the main risks (e.g. safety, security, environmental) associated with small nuclear power? How can these risks be mitigated?
  • What are the opportunities and challenges for the domestic UK supply chain and intellectual property of developing small nuclear power in the UK, and what role can the Government play in supporting British industry?
  • What lessons can be learnt from international experiences of deploying small nuclear power? How can the UK develop an internationally competitive indigenous small nuclear power industry?
  • Should Government and regulators do more to ensure that small nuclear power forms part of the UK’s future energy mix?

The deadline for the submission of written evidence is 16 April 2014

Notes on submission of written evidence

Written submissions for this inquiry should be submitted via the inquiry page on the Energy and Climate Change Committee website.
The deadline is Wednesday 16 April 2014. As a guideline submissions should state clearly who the submission is from e.g. ‘Written evidence submitted by xxxx’ and be no longer than 3000 words; please contact the Committee staff if you wish to discuss this. If you need to send hard copy please send it to: The Clerk, Energy and Climate Change Committee, 14 Tothill Street, London, SW1H 9NB.

Submissions must be a self-contained memorandum in Word or Rich Text Format (not PDFs). Paragraphs should be numbered for ease of reference and the document should, if possible, include an executive summary.

Submissions should be original work, not previously published or circulated elsewhere. Once submitted, your submission becomes the property of the Committee and no public use should be made of it unless you have first obtained permission from the Clerk of the Committee. Please bear in mind that Committees are not able to investigate individual cases.

Publication of evidence

The Committee normally, though not always, chooses to publish the written evidence it receives, either by printing the evidence, publishing it on the internet or by making it publicly available through the Parliamentary Archives. If there is any information you believe to be sensitive you should highlight it and explain what harm you believe would result from its disclosure; the Committee will take this into account in deciding whether to publish or further disclose the evidence.

The personal information you supply will be processed in accordance with the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 for the purposes of attributing the evidence you submit and contacting you as necessary in connection with its processing. The Clerk of the House of Commons is the data controller for the purposes of the Act.


Further information