back to article Rolls-Royce set for funding fillip to build nuclear power stations based on small modular reactor technology

British engineering and aerospace giant Rolls-Royce has secured funding to build nuclear power stations based on small modular reactor (SMR) technology. A consortium of BNF Resources UK Ltd, Exelon Generation Ltd and Roll-Royce Group will invest £195m roughly over a three-year period. This cash injection will allow the …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nuclear powered shaver.

    RR couldn't give a monkeys arse about the funding to build the reactors. They would happily build them for free.

    This will provide a fucking MASSIVE 100+ year cleanup bonanza payhose - Guaranteed.

    1. cyberdemon Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Nuclear powered shaver.

      So, AC. What's your solution?

      Currently, the UK produces about 35% of its electricity from gas, and that's without considering all the gas boilers and petrol/diesel cars that we are supposed to be phasing out.

      About 40% (currently) of electricity is renewable by volume, but that disappears as soon as the sun stops shining and the wind stops blowing - we need gas to step in at these moments or else the lights go out, and energy storage on that scale is mind-bogglingly expensive, inefficient, unreliable and dangerous (even when compared to nuclear,(and even with the current set of Nuclear regs which were practically written by the CND))

      And once you consider house heating, that demand doubles at least.

      Without nuclear, coal or gas, where would a nation like the UK get its stable baseload energy from?

      1. Flywheel
        Unhappy

        Re: Nuclear powered shaver.

        I agree. Here's our current power source mix here in Yorkshire:

        Biomass 37.3 %

        Coal 3.8 %

        Gas 57 %

        Solar 0.8 %

        Wind 1.2 %

        Fuel sources not used (0%): Imports, Nuclear, Other, Hydro

        We need a solution.

    2. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: Nuclear powered shaver.

      As opposed to the millions of kilograms of fiberglass reinforced polyester/epoxy composite in windturbine blades and the millions of kilograms of bonded silicon and glass solar panels that are all completely un-recyclable and also dangerous and toxic to be around (heavy metals and other toxic compounds) that are currently the paraded "solution" by the greenies that won't actually reliably keep our lights on long term.

      If the hippies didn't so heavily oppose nuclear fuel processing and plutonium containing MOX fuels then the environmental impact of nuclear in terms of greenhouse emissions for mining and processing Uranium would be even further reduced and the problem of high radioactive waste would also strongly diminish. But no, we can't have that.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nuclear powered shaver.

        > As opposed to the millions of kilograms of fiberglass reinforced polyester/epoxy composite in windturbine blades

        If we made the turbine blades out of carbon fibre then they would be a carbon sink. And at end of life we just shred them into small lumps and bury them in an old mineshaft to sequester that carbon.

        1. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: Nuclear powered shaver.

          At roughly 20 tons of CO2 produced per ton of carbon fiber produced that's... not exactly true.

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Nuclear powered shaver.

      Small reactors (like those used on subs) are actually SAFER but a bit more expensive due to the highlty enriched fuel they will need.

      a) Small size = negative "alpha T" (temp coefficient) meaning that they can respond better to varying loads. (this means increase in temperature causes power to become lower, a stable configuration)

      b) no "all eggs in one basket" solution. Instead, distributed power sources. More reliable, at least in theory

      c) modular design minimizing construction costs, maximizing profitability as long as the staffing requirement isn't too high.

      I think it is an EXCELLENT idea, seeing as I operated a reactor on a submarine for almost 4 years.

      (that means I know what I am talking about)

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Nuclear powered shaver.

        "I operated a reactor on a submarine for almost 4 years."

        One of the things the military doesn't have to deal with is lawsuits and protesters. They are also not paying a high rise full of people writing evacuation plans, accident plans, propaganda campaigns and all sorts of other things that aren't directly connected with the power plant. There are also requirements for public warning systems and security forces. People want there to be security forces on site at all time to keep terrorists from stealing Plutonium to make a bomb even though that's not really possible. The military is their own build in security force. I do realize that those involved get closer scrutiny and more training.

        I'd like to see a breakdown of the costs to build a nuclear power plant as they are now vs. what a small modular plant would cost. Building bits in a proper factory is more efficient than on site, but is that enough of a savings when other fixed costs such as legal fees and paperwork won't change due to size?

  2. A Non e-mouse Silver badge
    Meh

    With the Rolls-Royce SMR technology, we have developed a clean energy solution...

    And what about the decommissioning..?

    Whilst I like the idea of nuclear power, the mess it leaves behind isn't very pleasant.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      With one in every town I'd imagine we'd have trouble keeping them safe from mischievous people should we do something stupid like sell weapons to a slightly different side of a religion for err fun!

      1. EvilDrSmith

        I suspect the Civil Nuclear Constabulary would work out how to do it, with perhaps a slight increase in its size.

        https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/civil-nuclear-constabulary/about

        1. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge

          What? You think the Government of Austerity will ever fund such profligacy?

      2. cyberdemon Silver badge
        Mushroom

        One in every town

        I don't think that's the point here.

        SMRs should be built as a 'farm' of small reactors in a few fairly large facilities situated in places where you would normally site a nuclear reactor i.e. close to bodies of water.

        That makes the sites easier to defend from bad people (because there are fewer of them, compared to 'one in every town'), and easier to decommission (because the reactors are smaller).

        And because the reactors themselves are small, they can be taken offline for maintenance much more easily, they contain less fuel, they are easier, cheaper and faster to build (less chance of a tiny metallurgical imperfection ruining your whole pressure vessel as with Flamanville EPR), they are safer, they can be managed by automated systems instead of an army of homer simpsons with clipboards and boxes of doughnuts.

        1. Abominator Bronze badge

          Re: One in every town

          Exactly. The main point is large parts are made in a factory and shipped rather than constructed/assembled on site.

        2. cyberdemon Silver badge
          Go

          Re: One in every town

          Oh and did we mention they are modular? That means less risk: You can use a relatively small investment to build the first one, and then when that starts making ROI, you have an income on which to secure investment for three more.

          Whereas with a gigawatt-scale nuke, you need tens of billions up front. No investor, perhaps with the exception of Jeff Bezos, would be daft enough to do that.

          Certain hippie types might not like it, but Nuclear is the only reliable low carbon energy source that we have. We can't do everything with wind, solar and lithium batteries, you know.

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: One in every town

            "Whereas with a gigawatt-scale nuke, you need tens of billions up front. No investor, perhaps with the exception of Jeff Bezos, would be daft enough to do that."

            I was reading recently of a copper company in Poland looking at building several reactors to generate power for their own needs. Apparently they use enough power to make it worthwhile to have their own.

            I don't think that anything Jeff is doing would be worth the hassle.

        3. Nifty Silver badge

          Re: One in every town

          "SMRs should be built as a 'farm' of small reactors in a few fairly large facilities situated in places where you would normally site a nuclear reactor i.e. close to bodies of water."

          About that water... maybe with rising sea levels and kess predictable inland flooding, they should be encased in a submarine. Suddenly it all makes sense.

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: One in every town

          No, it said they're the size of 2 soccer pitches so they can build them on school playgrounds.

          1. 2+2=5 Silver badge
            Unhappy

            Re: One in every town

            > No, it said they're the size of 2 soccer pitches so they can build them on school playgrounds.

            Successive Labour and Conservative Governments have form for selling-off school playing fields so a few more isn't going to be a problem. :-(

            https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/school-land-decisions-about-disposals/decisions-on-the-disposal-of-school-land

            (I make it about 250 rows in that table, so about 500 sales, some covering more than one school, since 2000)

        5. Stoneshop Silver badge

          Re: One in every town

          they can be taken offline for maintenance much more easily,

          as well as staggered, so you don't lose a noticeable part of your production capacity that you would then have to pull in from another source.

    2. Filippo Silver badge

      It's a problem. It's a pretty big problem, too.

      However, the fact that my home town, which is 20km inland, is projected to be be a coastal town in a century or so, is also a big problem. An underwater town is gone just as much as an irradiated one.

      So, I would very much like for us to explore every possible solution, even if they present big problems.

      I would not like for us to only bet that we'll figure out how to really scale renewables. I've nothing against renewables, but it would be profoundly stupid to bet the future stability, if not the survival, of mankind, on just one horse. It's not like renewables don't have pretty big problems too.

      I very definitely do not want for us to rely solely on solutions that I consider utterly and completely unfeasible, such as convincing everyone to stop eating meat and driving cars within the next 20 years.

      1. cyberdemon Silver badge
        Devil

        There is a solution which is perfectly feasible and pretty much guaranteed to reduce carbon emissions in the long term:

        Have a war, shrink the global economy and the global human population by 50% or more. Any volunteers?

        If we don't do something about the problem now, that option could be forced upon us when global food shortages hit, etc.

        1. Filippo Silver badge

          That's definitely a scenario, and a likely one at that. I wouldn't call it a "solution". It's more like the scenario that happens if a solution is not found.

          1. cyberdemon Silver badge
            Terminator

            It's still a 'solution' in both the mathematical and technical sense, to the global warming problem.. Just, not a very optimal one, from Humanity's point of view.

            1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
              Mushroom

              @cyberdemon - "It's still a 'solution' in both the mathematical and technical sense"

              Not necessarily... if the war goes nuclear, then, yes, you could get a nuclear winter and global cooling, but otherwise every side will be franticly increasing production (and therefore emissions) in the effort to keep the enemy off their fast-reducing resources, so, more warming.

              1. itzman
                Mushroom

                assuming you buy the 'co2 causes massive warming' scenario which has failed to predict anything accurately in the last 30 years.

                In the end Global warming doom is irrelevant. Northing the uk does will make the slightest difference.

                'Saving the planet' is down to India and China.

                Our problem is more local. with ecohippies shrieking against fracking we have no economically viable local energy source left.

                Do we really want to rely on Arab nations and Russia?

                In the limit uranium is abundant everywhere. And you don't need very much. A mass produced production engineered bog standard reactor is exactly what we need to meet any future challenges

                1. cyberdemon Silver badge
                  Mushroom

                  ecohippies

                  The UK is 'part of the problem' in that we still buy tat from China and India to prop up our economy.

                  Said 'Tat' includes Neodymium magnets for Wind turbines EVs and Heat Pumps, Lithium and Cobalt for batteries and EVs, and Silicon for solar cells (which would be much more effectively used nearer the equator), all so we can pretend that we are saving the planet (when like you say, our 'local' emissions already represent the tiniest fraction of global CO2 emissions). We are simply shifting the problem somewhere else.

                  The real problem is that our economy is fundamentally dependent on "growth". In the words of Agent Smith, the Human Race is a Cancer on this Planet. Globalisation has allowed us to 'Grow' far beyond our means, nothing we can do in terms of so-called renewable energy will stop that.

                  If only there was some kind of plague to reduce the numbers of humans to a sustainable level without causing WWIII. Oh wait. There was. Damn and blast those vaccine developers...

                  Nuclear is the way to a stable sustainable future, but I fear we in the west are far too late thanks to our shunning of it (because the CND took issue against our foolish use of civil nuclear reactors to develop weapons in the 60s) in favour of Gas and Oil (and probably Big Oil were backing the CND..)

                  Now globalisation is out of control, and if we unilaterally stop economic growth now, we will be overtaken and immediately threatened by Russia and China, who will still use Oil and Gas resources, as well as Nuclear.

                  In the end, we will have plenty of nuclear energy, whether we like it or not. (see icon)

        2. Fred Dibnah

          You first.

        3. eldakka Silver badge

          > There is a solution which is perfectly feasible and pretty much guaranteed to reduce carbon emissions in the long term

          Your solution (like Thanos' solution in Avengers: Infinity War) isn't long term, it is a short term delaying action.

          When the 50% survivors breed again, in a couple generations we'll be back to exactly where we are now.

          No, reducing the population isn't a long term solution, we'll still need some solutions to prevent us polluting.

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            No, reducing the population isn't a long term solution, we'll still need some solutions to prevent us polluting.

            Just popping in to join the silliness, to point out an entrenched fallacy - that just doesn't seem to want to die.

            We don't have a global population timebomb. The world population isn't going to continue exponentially increasing - the doomsayers who were telling us this in the 70s and 80s were wrong - population didn't hit 10 billion by the year 2000 and I believe population is well on the way to stability or slight shrinkage in every continent but Africa now. Well who knows what the scientists are getting up to in Antarctica...

            As people become better off, they have fewer kids. Globalisation has meant that the entire world has got massively richer in the last 30 years, and this has caused birth rates to fall everywhere. Africa are just a bit further behind on that development path than the rest of the world, and so birth rates haven't dropped as much yet, but are currently falling.

            Hans Rosling and the Gapminder institute are a good search term to find an incredibly enthusiastic Swedish guy banging on about this with some very cool slides and graphics. He's also good on global vaccination rates and other interesting stuff.

            1. EVP

              Talking about population growth... There has not been much public talk about overpopulation after the turn of the century. In 90s it was a big topic, but not that much anymore. This is at least my experience, I'd be happy to hear differing views, and that the issue is still discussed/addressed.

        4. zuckzuckgo Bronze badge

          > There is a solution ... Have a war,

          Nuclear can "help" with that "solution" also.

    3. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Yes, the mess left behind by past endeavours is ... a bit of a mess. But these days, what to do with things at the end of life is considered during design.

      Leaving aside some of the "less clever" ideas from the past, you also need to be aware that some of our waste problems are actually cased (in part) by demands from the anti-nuclear lobby. Things like dismantling reactors "hot" instead of allowing them to cool down (radioactivity wise), and treating what would in any other circumstance be "mostly fuel, just needs processing a bit" as waste that must be expensively disposed of.

      1. jmch Silver badge
        Mushroom

        "... some of our waste problems are actually cased (in part) by demands from the anti-nuclear lobby..."

        Marginally, yes, and the cost of nuclear is also elevated by demanding far higher safety outcomes than any other type of plant.

        But the real huge driver of nuclear waste is the military... most current reactors (based on 70s designs and built in the 80s - 90s) leave highly radioactive fissile material as waste by design since the military wanted plentiful material for nuclear weapons. Modern design reactors 'burn' far more of the fuel and leave far less as waste.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          "far higher safety outcomes than any other type of plant."

          IIRC, the "natural" radioactive emissions from coal plants into the environment was significantly higher than what was defined as "safe" for nuclear plants. Coal = safe, Nuclear = OMG DANGEROUS is part of why nuclear is vastly more expensive. As others have pointed out, newer technology can be a lot safer and a lot cheaper and I'd much prefer a nice, decent, reliable and constant base load. Wind and solar are not that. Cloudy calm days across almost the entire UK are not unheard off. And despite the promise of wave and tidal going back to the 1960's which the UK should be well ahead in, we really don't seem to be getting any further than a few very small scale prototypes, often, ironically, for environmental objections (remember the huge campaign against wind turbines lead by the RSPB "because kills birds" that seems to have gone away now?)

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            The problem with tidal power is that places with tides tend to be environmentally sensitive. But also that the sea is big and heavy, moves around a lot, and tends to break stuff. Meaning that the engineering is really expensive (as is the maintenance), and even then I don't think you get constant base load generation.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            > IIRC, the "natural" radioactive emissions from coal plants into the environment was significantly higher than what was defined as "safe" for nuclear plants.

            This is correct. You can't build a new nuclear power station on the site of an old coal-fired power station in the UK because the old ash/slag heap would immediately be declared radioactive waste and would have to be disposed of.

          3. MachDiamond Silver badge

            "Cloudy calm days across almost the entire UK are not unheard off."

            The other issue is when wind is abundant, there may not be any demand. Grid level storage is massively expensive and as is the case in Southern Australia, they had no choice but to put it in since their grid wasn't designed around wind/solar and burned up one bad day.

            There is no silver bullet. It's going to be a combination of technologies that are appropriate for the location and circumstances. Having a smarter grid that broadcasts current pricing over the wires can help people and businesses make decisions based on costs with a variable tariff. EV's can initially be set to charge when prices are low which would be the case in the middle of a windy night. As technology improves, vehicle to grid can be implemented so people can sell back a certain amount of power from their car when demand is high.

            The energy grid has evolved over the last 120 years. It's not going to be changed completely in the next 5. It's not change that's a problem, it's the rate of change.

    4. John Robson Silver badge

      How much mess do you think they leave behind?

      You're talking about genuinely tiny amounts of stuff to bury deep - as opposed to thousands of tons of crap just spewed everywhere, both the solid and the gaseous stuff.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        That tiny amount of stuff is deadly. For some definition of tiny.

        Some nuclear waste has a half-life far longer than homo sapiens have existed. Which is sure to please the cockroaches that will take over the planet once humans have made themselves extinct.

        FYI isotopes of uranium and plutonium have half-lives measured in hundreds of million years.

        It would be nice if the nuclear industry figured out how to "burn" its deadliest waste or keep it safe forever before generating any more of the stuff.

        1. Richard 12 Silver badge

          They have, and they do

          The highly radioactive stuff is either fuel - by definition, that is reprocessed and stuffed back in the reactor - or it's very short half-life (because it's highly radioactive) so you stick it in a pond for a couple of years and it's gone.

          Or we would, if the so-called "green" lobby would actually let the plants get built.

          1. fajensen

            Re: They have, and they do

            Or one can combine the best of both options - in THORP: Use billions to reprocess nuclear waste, then have the plant spring a leak and leave a nice puddle in the basement that nobody can clean up for ??? years because it is indeed highly readioactive :).

        2. cmdrklarg

          Something with a half-life of hundreds of millions of years isn't very dangerous.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Snort some plutonium and get back to us.

            1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

              That's a very special case. Pu-239 is an alpha emitter, and alpha particles are not good to have in your lungs. On the other hand, when in solid form outside the body the particles don't even get through your skin and do no damage.

              1. MachDiamond Silver badge

                Pu being an alpha emitter is the least of your problems if you snort some. It's a toxic metal that will kill you faster than the radiation.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              There are two possibilities with radioactive material. Either it is hugely energetic and throws out huge quantities of high frequency radiation, or it throws out relatively low levels of radiation but does so for a long time. You can have one or the other, not both.

              Plutonium for instance is a good example; people used to have plutonium powered pacemakers implanted. As the article says, 1970's versions were still merrily working away a few years back, so if you can have plutonium implanted for fifty years then i'd suggest that it might be less dangerous that you appear to think.

            3. Cuddles Silver badge

              Plutonium doesn't have a half-life of hundreds of millions of years. The only plutonium isotope with a half-life in the millions (Pu-244) isn't present in nuclear waste. Rather ironic to reply to posts pointing out that radioactive waste isn't actually as dangerous as people think with exactly the kind of misinformation that causes them to think that.

        3. eldakka Silver badge

          > That tiny amount of stuff is deadly. For some definition of tiny.

          Sure. 1g of nuclear waste is much worse than 1g of coal-plant waste. But then, a nuclear plants waste is measured in 100's of tons over its lifetime, whereas a coal-plants is measured in millions of tons.

          > Some nuclear waste has a half-life far longer than homo sapiens have existed...FYI isotopes of uranium and plutonium have half-lives measured in hundreds of million years.

          True, but by definition of how radiation works and what half-life is, something with a half-life of hundreds of thousands of years is very-low radiation, relatively low danger. Closer to a bananas radiation emission than it is to plutonium's.

          If something is highly radioactive, it has a very short half-life.

          > It would be nice if the nuclear industry figured out how to "burn" its deadliest waste or keep it safe forever before generating any more of the stuff.

          There are types of plants, and research on types of plants (e.g. thorium reactors), that do in fact burn up and use the worst waste as fuel. However, some of these reactor designs have the potential to be used to create more weapons-grade material. And non-profileration treaties and concerns are a big drag on reasearch and reactors that could be used for either destroying waste or enhancing it, depending on users desire due to fear of profileration of nuclear weapons.

        4. simonlb

          They already do. Current reactors burn up at most 2% of the fuel leaving 98% as highly radoactive waste which needs reprocessing then disposal. This is the massive long term headache we have today.

          Molten salt thorium reactors can be run on existing high level neucear waste and burn up over 98.5% of the fuel leaving very little high-level waste. With the existing stockpiles of waste we've created over the past 60 years it's estimated we can run the whole planet on molten salt reactors for over 25,000 years.

          It's not that we don't know how, it's the lack of will to do it. Why build a nuclear plant for an operator which can use existing waste when there's more profit in locking in the operator of that plant to using fuel rods which only you as the manufacturer can supply? An easy 50-year profit cycle, and your grandkids can sort out the mess left behind.

          I do hope they make a sensible choice with these reactors.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Thorium reactors have been the obvious solution for years ... to amateurs. Ask a professional nuclear engineer and they just roll their eyes.

            1. imanidiot Silver badge

              They're an obvious solution to the professional nuclear engineers too. It's just that obvious solutions aren't always easy to build. Fusion reactors are also an obvious solution. Doesn't mean we know how to build one.

              Thorium reactors have their drawbacks too, they're not the end all of nuclear energy, but they could certainly be another tool in the box of tools of energy supply.

        5. Ian Johnston Silver badge

          Some nuclear waste has a half-life far longer than homo sapiens have existed.

          Which is fine, because - by definition - anything with a very long half-life isn't very radioactive. So, for example, U-235 and U-238 both half half-lives measured in hundreds of millions of years and are (unless you do something stupid with U235) completely harmless. Plutonium 239 has a half life of 24,000 years which makes it pretty safe too (poisonous, mind you, but so is lead) and its nasty wee sister, Pu-241 has a half life of 14 years which means that all you have to do with it is stick it somewhere for a century or so to cool down.

        6. John Robson Silver badge

          "That tiny amount of stuff is deadly. For some definition of tiny."

          Only when compared with similar volumes of other wastes. The amount of waste produced by a coal plant is tens of orders of magnitude greater, and the damage to the planet even more severe.

          And that ignores the radiation released by burning coal [studies have shown that this is actually greater than the radiation released by an equivalently sized nuclear plant]

          "Some nuclear waste has a half-life far longer than homo sapiens have existed. Which is sure to please the cockroaches that will take over the planet once humans have made themselves extinct."

          Stuff with a long half life is, by it's very nature, not particularly dangerous... The danger isn't "holding something radioactive" it's the output of decay products - a long half life means very little in the way of decay products.

          A short half life on the other hand is also fairly easy to deal with - hold stuff in a pool/casket for a year and it's no longer significantly radioactive.

          The dangerous stuff is the "middle of the road", fairly significant decay over merely long periods of time (thousands of years).

          "It would be nice if the nuclear industry figured out how to "burn" its deadliest waste or keep it safe forever before generating any more of the stuff."

          We could just do what every other power technology does and release it into the atmosphere...

          Or we could do what we actually do and store it in vaults that are stable for geological time frames.

          Of course there are reactor designs which consume previously "used" fuels, but we still need some old style reactors going to provide vital medicines - where else do we get Iodine 131? It's not as if we can stockpile it...

    5. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Boffin

      So there is a need to reprocess and recycle [not all of the fuel can be utilized, fission productsl have industrial uses, and nuclear waste has useful things in it like unspent fuel and useful fission products]

      If you do it right, the waste will be minimized. And maybe the decay heat can become useful, too. You have to think CONSERVATIVE to see this...

      But yeah be a doom and gloon anti-nuke woke activist and you'll get the upvotes from the choir, which is really a SMALL percentage of the population.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        "And maybe the decay heat can become useful, too."

        Heat is always useful. To generate electricity profitably, it takes a fair amount of Delta-T. To grow bananas in a hothouse, far less. Siting things that can use the waste heat nearby should be something always looked at for any thermal power plant. Some crops are very sensitive to frost. Citrus could be grown in many areas if the ground was heated and the area around the trees was warm enough to keep above freezing. Iceland is a good example. They do a lot of heating of things with the waste heat from their geothermal plants.

  3. Dinanziame Silver badge
    Go

    This is good

    Most people who have open eyes about near-term needs and current limitations of alternatives agree that nuclear is still needed for at least decades... Even with the issues connected to storing the spent fuel. And indeed, smaller and more modulable seems like it makes sense from all points of view.

    There are currently serious worries that countries have painted themselves into a corner by rejecting nuclear energy, and that there will be an energy crisis in the near future.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: This is good

      Needed for decades? It takes decade to build the stuff and by then we could have far more renewables than we need for similar build price.

      1. Dinanziame Silver badge

        Re: This is good

        If this is small and modulable, it could hopefully be built much faster... And renewables don't currently look as if they scale all the way up to what we need, even in countries that have massively bet on it.

        1. IGotOut Silver badge

          Re: This is good

          "by then we could have far more renewables than we need for similar build price.

          Tell me what this magic solution is that works on a cold winters night.

          No wind.

          No sun.

          Oh before you mention tidal. Look at the costs and environmental impacts of this.

          Hydroelectric. Again look at environmental impact.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: This is good

            You are only looking at generation not storage. Solar/Wind + storage as a combined system is what be evaluated for comparison. (Not that it is, even by renewable proponents, but is should be.)

            Batteries are one kind of storage which it already growing exponentially - although it is behind what it should be to make renewables to storage a comparable replacement.

            Electricity to hydrogen (to methane) is another storage method which has the advantage of being able to be stored indefinitely and shipped. Methane can be substituted for natural gas in existing shipping and distribution networks. Therefore it can be exported.

            Additionally creating methane from hydrogen can be done using carbon dioxide taken out of the atmosphere

            C02 + 4H2 =>(pressure, catalyst)=> CH4 + 4H20

            thus offering a net zero carbon closed system. Unfortunately hydrogen and methane R&D are further behind than batteries.

            There is also confusion between "blue" hydrogen created from natural gas, and "green" hydrogen created from electricity. Partly because natural gas producers want to obscure the difference, and partly because politics tends to oversimplify reality - "blue hydrogen is bad" becomes "hydrogen is bad" and therefore "green" hydrogen is also bad.

            1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

              Re: This is good

              ..thus offering a net zero carbon closed system. Unfortunately hydrogen and methane R&D are further behind than batteries...

              Congratulations, you've invented perpetual motion! Or, given COP-season, perpetual funding. COP after all being about transferring $100bn+ a year to the UN to dole out to friends & family.

              Problem is you're starting with an expensive & intermittent form of energy. This is kind of the 'demand management' and demand shifting problem. 'Renewables' work when they feel like it, or when the wind blows and the sun shines. If that's when demand is low, then their product is pretty much worthless. If demand is high, and they can't deliver, then something else has to provide the energy we rely on.

              So currently tha's pretty much gas turbines having to pick up the slack when the 'renewables' lobby fails to deliver. In a slightly more perfect world, this would be factored into contracts. So a generator contracts to delivering X MW(h) at £Y. If their windmills aren't spinning, they'd still have to deliver contracted energy for £Y.

              But suppose you have electricty that costs say, £140MWh (offshore wind). You then decide it's a good idea to spend a couple of million building electrolysis or steam reformation to turn MWh electricity into gas. So you'd need CO2 or CH4. So now you've got a fuel cost on top of your energy cost. It's also not 100% efficient, so losses. You've then got to deliver your gas to your customers. Oh, and deal with any plant problems due to intermittent electricity input.

              So basically chain a bunch of expensive inputs and processes together, and somehow expect the output to be affordable.. Which it won't, but it could have the potential to generate billions more in subsidies, which will increase infation and energy poverty in the UK.

              So like much Green stuff, basically bonkers. There's a better argument that synth fuels are a future solution to any 'peak oil' problems given we can always make 'fossil' fuels if we ever need to. And we might be doing that using ultra cheap fusion power. Or just fission power. After all, SMR's are best as baseload generators, so off-peak, could potentially dump surplus power into synthfuel production.

              Or.. I dunno, hot water. After all, one of the reasons the UK got it's 'Economy 7' tarrif and 'smart' radio teleswitches was so we could divert off-peak power into cheap resistive heaters.. Which are far cheaper than dumb ideas like heat pumps. Of course one benefits consumers, the other.. doesn't.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: This is good

                "'Renewables' work when they feel like it, or when the wind blows and the sun shines."

                depends on your definition of renewables. pumped storage (ie hydro) works on demand. so does geothermal. and tidal works fine, assuming the moon's in the right place. wind and solar can be intermittent. but the trick is to store that energy - say by pumping water uphill or making green hydrogen - when its sunny and windy enough.

                1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

                  Re: This is good

                  ...but the trick is to store that energy - say by pumping water uphill or making green hydrogen - when its sunny and windy enough...

                  Sure, but the real trick is the cost of doing that, or the cost of subsidising that. The UK has Dinorwig, owned now by a French company. It can provide 1GW for up to 6 hours. Then all the water needs to be pumped back up hill, which costs more money as it's fighting gravity. Problem can be seen here-

                  https://gridwatch.co.uk/Wind

                  with wind providing 2GW, or 6% of demand of 38GW because it's not very windy. And if you look at the monthly graphs, you can see the intermittency. So far this month, min 1GW, max 13GW. The 'renewables' lobby will say we just need to throw billions more at windmills. And sadly the government still seems keen to throw our money at them-

                  https://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/environmentalaccounts/articles/windenergyintheuk/june2021

                  In 2020, the UK generated 75,610 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity from both offshore and onshore wind. This would be enough to power 8.4 trillion LED light bulbs.

                  Yey! Quick, order more light bulbs. This kind of mathturbation is sadly typical of the wind lobby though. Use an impressively large number and an unrealistic example. Usually thats 'enough to power X homes', leaving out the minor detail that it's windy at the time. But OK, converting say, GWh to miles driveable by EVs would be harder, but an impending challenge. Better stats here-

                  https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/energy-trends-section-6-renewables

                  Renewable generation fell on the same period last year due to less favourable conditions in 2021, particularly for wind. Windy conditions last year led to record renewable generation and the still weather this year decreased wind generation by 14 per cent.

                  And..

                  Demand for natural gas was up by 24 per cent in April to June 2021 compared to last year, mainly because demand for electricity generation was up by 45 per cent. Last year very windy weather led to record renewable generation, which was not the case this year and gas was used to fill the gap.

                  Domestic demand was up by 27 per cent to 62.0 TWh as temperatures fell below the long-term average and compared to 2020 when temperatures were unusually warm. Industrial demand was up by a fifth compared to the same period in 2020, which saw the first national lockdown in place to curb the spread of Covid-19.

                  Which highlights the 'Net Zero' problem and the government's plans to further decarbonise the UK. So basically making gas heating and cooking illegal. Or just very expensive. But decarbonisation would consume pretty much all the wind generated capacity currently installed. Except when it's not windy, then we'd need a lot more CCGT gas generation to provide up to 130GWh of capacity for those no-wind days. And then there's the capacity needed for EV cars, lorries, buses..

                  But wait, there's more-

                  Renewable electricity generation was 26.9 TWh in Quarter 2 2021, 9.6 per cent lower than the same

                  period in 2020. This fall was primarily driven by a 14 per cent reduction in wind generation because of lower average wind speeds, which were below the averages for the same months in 2020 and substantially below the 10-year averages. Solar and hydro generation also decreased due to less favourable weather conditions.

                  We've spent billions adding windmills, yet production has fallen. This is one of the ironies of 'renewables' policy. We're fighting 'climate change' with a solution that's most vulnerable to climate change, or just the weather. And our ancestors new this, and we had the Industrial Revolution happened that replaced the 'Age of Sail' with the 'Age of Steam'. Our current 'leaders' must have slept through that part of their history lessons, even though many of them are humanities grads, not engineers..

                  So we have around 48GW of installed 'renewable' capacity that generated 26.9TWh of electricity for that quarter. There are 2190hrs in a quarter, so 'renewables' generated an average of 12.2GWh, or only 1/3rd of potential.. Which is where the 'renewables' lobby's dishonesty tends to come in because they usually assume 100% production when showing off their 'enough to power X' claims. Which are of course subject to availability and prevailing weather conditions.

                  So TL;DR. It's a huge problem that 'renewables' can't solve. If we add more, dealing with intermittency just becomes more expensive because that has to cope with the inherent variability in both production, and demand. Storage is just throwing good money after bad because of the scale of the problem, and the inherent weakness of the 'solution'. Plus the UK doesn't have many sites suitable for the amount of pumped hydro we'd need.

                  The UK needs reliable and affordable power, and it should be clear that 'renewables' simply can't deliver that, especially with the political desire to decarbonise the UK.

                  1. jmch Silver badge

                    Re: This is good

                    "...but the trick is to store that energy - say by pumping water uphill or making green hydrogen - when its sunny and windy enough... Sure, but the real trick is the cost of doing that"

                    When wind / solar are working at very high output, spot prices fall, then it's cheaper to pump the water back uphill into pumped storage. Similairly if a large %age of homes had an electric-car size battery capacity, they could absorb the excess at a low per-unit cost. Better idea than large scale hydro. But what's most important is a balanced mix of technologies, including intermittent ones, that can wean us off carbon fuels.

                    In principle I have no problem with windmills, electric cars, home batteries etc. being subsidised. Coal and oil have been subsidized directly or indirectly* for decades, might as well subsidise something more environmentally friendly. What's more important is that the subsidies are going to promote a mix of generation / storage that will work not only in the long run but also through the transition. And adding a subsidy to nuclear is a great idea.

                    *think of all the military spending to keep a relative stabiliy in the middle east / gulf zone.

                  2. MachDiamond Silver badge

                    Re: This is good

                    "It's a huge problem that 'renewables' can't solve.

                    Jellied Eel,

                    A big problem is people looking for a drop-in replacement rather than putting on their Dirk Gently hat and coat and examining the whole problem. Wind and solar can be a piece of it, but to make them work needs other things such as demand side uses that can use the power intermittently. Some of that might be EV charging. To make that work means having an incentive, usually financial, for people to adopt it. There also needs to be a standard, likely worldwide, for sending pricing along the power lines.

                    I try to be as "green" as I can, but it's motivated by saving money. I use things up. I try to find uses for things and materials rather than just tossing them in the bin. I buy many things second hand. You won't find me spending a premium to be green. I expect that most people are the same way.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: This is good

                > "Congratulations, you've invented perpetual motion! "

                Congratulations - you display perpetual ignorance! You mouth keep on moving and all that comes out is methane gas!

                1. David 132 Silver badge
                  FAIL

                  Re: This is good

                  You going to rebut his points, anonymous coward, or are you just going to stoop to ad hominem attacks?

                  1. James Hughes 1

                    Re: This is good

                    He's AC, he is never going to provide proof of anything, Ad hominem is all you will get.

      2. VicMortimer
        Mushroom

        Re: This is good

        We could have far more renewables with significantly less build price.

        The time for this was 50 years ago. It's not needed or wanted now.

        What we need now is solar+wind+storage+transmission. It's time to forget about nuclear fission as a viable future power source.

        Fusion may have potential, it may not. I'm in favor of fusion research continuing, but let's limit fission to existing plants and start working on long-term waste solutions for the ones we have before we even think about building new ones.

        1. cyberdemon Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Fusion

          I worked in Fusion for 6.5 years. I can tell you: It doesn't have potential to replace fission.

          (We have only one working fusion reactor, and its energy and power densities are approximately that of your average compost heap. But it is so massive, that it lights up the planets nevertheless. That's why any fusion power plant has to be even hotter and even higher pressure than the sun, which is hard to achieve. And the energy output of a fusion reactor is in terms of neutron radiation. It is much MORE radioactive, when operating, than a fusion reactor, the only difference is you can turn it off. It doesn't produce heavy isotopes with thousands of years of decay time. But it DOES irradiate your cobalt-steel with neutrons and make it radioactive, for example)

          However, fusion may well have potential to augment fission though: e.g. hybrid fusion-fission reactors, you use a small "fusor" (i.e. a very small fusion reactor that doesn't care about reaching anywhere near unity output, these are cheap and compact, you could almost build one at home) as a source of fast neutrons with a fast "off" switch. These neutrons are then used as an "ignition" for a fission reaction using sub-critical Uranium, i.e. uranium that cannot sustain a reaction by itself. Now you have a nuclear reactor that you can turn off, just like that.

          Large-scale battery storage is potentially as dangerous as Nuclear. Current battery storage systems are tiny, they are only able to compensate for frequency deviations in the grid, i.e. when the sun goes behind a cloud, they provide just enough juice to prop up the grid while we spin up a gas turbine and start burning more fossils.

          If you wanted a battery that could power 10% of the UK grid for an hour, (never mind overnight on a still day), you're talking 4-5GWh. The biggest battery storage projects in the world are a fraction of that, and we have yet to see the effect of one of them having a 'meltdown', but we know that it involves a lot of extremely toxic fluorinated gases e.g. HF entering the atmosphere. On the other hand we have had a few meltdowns of nuclear plants over the last decades, and they have proved extremely rare, and surprisingly safe. For example, everyone seems to think of Fukushima as a disaster, but I see it as a triumph for nuclear safety: It was a very old design, it suffered pretty much the worst event that can happen to a nuclear reactor: A Tsunami that killed 50,000 people and made millions homeless flooded the plant and shut off all power to cooling systems. 50 people went in to stabilise it, all of them expecting to die from the radioactivity, but so far not one of them (afaik) has. The tsunami killed 50,000, the nuclear reactor killed approximately zero. So where is the disaster?

          And without more reactors, we will burn more fossils, and we will have more typhoons. (I don't think we can blame global warming for tsunamis)

          I think if the money we have spent on Fusion could have been spent instead on better Fission designs, then the world would be in a much better place right now.

          We could have had molten salt fast (as in fast neutrons) reactors, which are able to consume the spent fuel that other reactors would consider to be "high level nuclear waste". They can even eat the Plutonium that we have stockpiled for weapons.

          1. Adair Silver badge

            Re: Fusion

            Yes, but we can't ignore the rather significant amount of population displacement and loss of land use which is still continuing, PLUS the clean up bill.

            So, hardly cost free by any stretch of the imagination. However we slice it nuclear power generation is fucking expensive - up front and long term.

            1. cyberdemon Silver badge
              Unhappy

              Re: Fusion

              But population displacement and loss of land are because of fear, not actual danger, no?

              1. Adair Silver badge

                Re: Fusion

                The cause is irrelevant, the costs are real.

                If you fancy hanging around a reactor breakdown like Fukashima go for it, but governments and societies aren't about what you or I think or do, they are about what 'we' think and do, until something budges us. On the whole, when it comes to human responses to perceived danger - and the possibility of an expensive law suit - the 'precautionary principle' tends to win out, and why shouldn't it - better safe than sorry.

                And the fact remains: nuclear power generation is 'fucking expensive' - in money and all other 'costs'.

                1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

                  Re: The cause is irrelevant

                  The cause is certainly not irrelevant.

                  Population displacement and apparent loss of usable land are driven by knee-jerk fear reactions, not a rational and realistic assessment of the actual risks.

                2. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

                  Re: nuclear power generation is 'fucking expensive'

                  Any power generating capability these days is fucking expensive, if we're to have enough of it to reliably provide base-load and peaking demand. Not just build cost, but total lifetime cost including environmental damage. Environmental damage which includes resource extraction to build enough of whatever generating source is being built.

                  Be that nuclear, wind, solar, tidal, hydro, gas, coal, whatever.

                  Coal and gas have known and proven environmental damage. Gas less so than coal, but still has problems.

                  Hydro needs massive dams, which flood vast areas of otherwise usable land and can lead to severe downstream problems for people who previously relied on the rivers that are now dammed. The price of generated electricity may be reasonable, and it doesn't produce any GHGs once built, but the construction costs are still massive.

                  Tidal has been shown to affect coastline erosion and formation patterns, sometimes in ways that are not good. There's also the problem of keeping the things working in such a mechanically hostile environment (salt, water, biofouling, blockages etc.). And the things are really expensive.

                  Solar has obvious problems more the more northerly lattitudes i.e the UK. Plus you need huge amounts of land area to provide enough panels.

                  Wind needs huge numbers of massive turbines to make much of a dent, and actual power output is almost always way, way lower than nameplate generating capacity. There's often times of low to no wind, so then the turbines aren't doing anything. Plus they keep breaking. Whenever I've driven past wind farms, it always seems like most of the turbines aren't turning. And again, huge amounts of land area is needed to provide enough turbines.

                  Where I am now, it's cloudy and there's no wind. It'll be like that all day. Solar and wind would be useless.

                  Storage could address the intermittency, to a degree. Trouble is you need so much of it, and all solutions are either hideously inefficient (batteries) or have severe site limitations (pumped hydro). Again, the cost to roll out sufficient capacity is enormous. And if there's not enough provision, at some point there will be blackouts, disruption, and even more expense as it's realised that even more storage is needed.

                  Traditional nuclear costs a lot to build up front. There have been a handful of accidents. Only one was serious enough to have lasting effects. Clean up will be an issue of course, but the problems there are always massively overexaggerated by the anti-nuke movements.

                  Modern SMR designs are 'walk-away safe' i.e. they don't need constant supervision, and they don't need power to maintain containment. Something goes wrong, they just shut down. They tend not to be pressurised, so there's nothing to "explode". Some designs burn up a huge amount of what's traditionally considered "waste" - which in truth is just another form of fissionable fuel.

                  Nuclear is the most energy-dense, power-dense generating source we have. It needs by far the smallest land area per generated unit. It is reliable base-load power, and some modern designs can even load-follow to handle peaking.

                  SMR - if allowed to be implemented properly - has the potential to vastly reduce build costs, provide cleam, reliable power, and address all the safety and waste concerns, both real and imaginary.

                  Rationally, SMR nuclear is by far the best option. It's that or we waste hundreds of billions on unreliable renewable and inefficient storage, and probably still have to actively manage people energy use. That doesn't sound like a bright and happy future to me.

                  1. Adair Silver badge

                    Re: nuclear power generation is 'fucking expensive'

                    Nuclear apologists always want to gloss over the realities---theirs are the sunlit uplands of hi-tech nirvana, where human beings are nice and tidy and all is sweetness and light.

                    Reality is different: 'hi-tech' is not only expensive it is fragile - utterly dependent on the knowledge and experience that creates and maintains it continuing to be around. 100 years in the run of a 'civilisation' is 'short term', and even then we can't guarantee that anyone will be around in 100 years with the technical know-how and money, let alone the interest, to maintain a working fission reactor, or manage it's demise. Witness the UK's dependence on foreign techologists to design and build the latest reactors. Once upon a time we could do it in-house.

                    Yes, all power generation is 'fucking expensive' at a global level, but nuclear easily tops the bill when it comes to present and future costliness. Fossil fuels are in the same league when it comes to environmental cost, but at a technical level don't come close to nuclear.

                    Nuclear technology is amazing, but as a long term sustainable means of supplying electricity to the world it's just as shitty as coal or oil, being as it is dependent on the positivist delusion that 'things can only get better'.

                    1. Adair Silver badge

                      Re: nuclear power generation is 'fucking expensive'

                      And for the naysayers - look around you. What do you see? Do you see a civilization on top of it's game, fully aware, responsible, and well able to manage itself to the benefit of all, including the planet?

                      We may flounder our way through the 'climate change' crisis, almost certainly at a heavy cost to those least able to protect themselves, but there is no guarantee that our civilization will survive what is coming.

                      Whatever happens, hopefully what emerges will be a humbler and wiser fit for living on this planet.

                3. MachDiamond Silver badge

                  Re: Fusion

                  "nuclear power generation is 'fucking expensive'"

                  You're thinking about lawyers and the two ARE connected.

          2. cyberdemon Silver badge
            Boffin

            Re: Compost Heap

            Minor correction. I meant power density (volumetric and gravimetric) not energy density. The sun produces only about 275 watts per cubic metre, and 385W/ton. Similar to a garden compost heap.

            Obviously its energy density is higher than a compost heap, unless you plan on extracting nuclear rather than chemical energy from the compost heap.

            1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

              Re: Compost Heap

              That is a valid statistic however the majority of the fusion takes place within a very small proportion of it's volume so it is a misleading statistic when it comes to power generation.

              1. cyberdemon Silver badge
                Boffin

                Re: Compost Heap

                This is a good point. Thanks.

                Do you have a figure for the power density at the core? How does it compare with ITER / DEMO ?

                1. cyberdemon Silver badge
                  Mushroom

                  Re: Compost Heap

                  Ok, so in reply to my own post: The sun's core is approximately 0.8% of its volume and produces 99% of the fusion power. So that's 25kW/m3, which is a lot more than a compost heap, but still about 10,000 times lower than a Fission reactor core.

                  ITER has a plasma volume of 830 m3 so it would produce 25MWt if it had the same power density as the sun's core. It is designed to produce 500MWt from 50MW input, so needs to run significantly hotter. And as you can imagine, not many materials can withstand megawatts per square metre of Neutron flux.

          3. imanidiot Silver badge

            Re: Fusion

            "all of them expecting to die from the radioactivity, but so far not one of them (afaik) has"

            IIRC one or two workers have in the process of their duties (also before the "disaster", which should primarily be referred to as the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, not the "Fukushima disaster" imho) been exposed to a radiation level above a certain threshold and subsequently developed a form of cancer which entitles them and their families to certain payouts for "workplace injuries". This incidence rate is however not outside the naturally occurring incidence rate so not indicative of much of anything.

            1. cyberdemon Silver badge
              Facepalm

              Re: Fusion

              A German acquaintance once told me that at the time, all of the German press reported that there was a nuclear incident *followed by* an earthquake/tsunami. So a large portion of the German population believed that the nuke incident *caused* the earthquake/tsunami, whereas clearly it was the other way around.

              That kind of explains the massive knee-jerk reaction in Germany to shut down all their nukes and replace them with brown lignite coal (the worst kind of coal, more polluting even than Biomass) which has to be one of the stupidest energy decisions in human history, and one that we are paying heavily for in the climate crisis.

              Can we blame the Russian troll-propaganda department for that one? We'll never know.

              1. Pseudonymous Howard

                Re: Fusion

                Sorry, but this is bullshit. I am from Germany and I never heard anybody believing that the incident caused the earthquake. I also do not remember any news outlet reporting the events in the wrong order.

                1. cyberdemon Silver badge

                  Re: Fusion

                  Interesting, thanks.

                  Can you give any comment/explanation on why Germany decided to close all its nukes in response to Fukushima?

                  The acquaintance who told me this worked for a German nuclear company at the time, so may well have been biased, or had insider information, or both.

                  1. Ken G Bronze badge

                    Re: Fusion

                    Greens had a lot of leverage in the government and there was a legacy of dodgy soviet reactors in the former east (see Greifswald). Politics, not facts.

          4. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Fusion

            "We could have had molten salt fast (as in fast neutrons) reactors, which are able to consume the spent fuel that other reactors would consider to be "high level nuclear waste". They can even eat the Plutonium that we have stockpiled for weapons."

            I'd love to see LFTR reactors outside of China. One of the reasons that doesn't get mentioned often is that Thorium is a waste product of rare-earth metal mining. The problem in non-China countries is that Thorium is a radioactive hazardous waste that's expensive to dispose of to code which makes it too expensive to mine the other stuff such as Neodymium. I believe in China the government is buying and storing it in anticipation of new reactor development that will use it. It might not even be a matter of buying it, but taking it off the hands of the the mining concerns. The US could do that and stockpile it at the Nevada proving grounds and sell it back to reactor operators at a later date. It's not like that land is going to be put to any other use for a few tens of thousands of years.

      3. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Megaphone

        Re: This is good

        Why not streamline the construction of nuke plants because they MAKE SENSE ???

        And this SMR thing sounds like it would help. A LOT.

        /me points out that the greenies who love electric cars should want a non-CO2 power source to charge them. Otherwise, you need coal and oil plants to provide enough power for your "green" electric cars, and when you do the math like I have, you can see that you need MORE than a single family dwelling's worth of surface area for solar panels to adequately charge your 25-50 mile per day electric car.

        So do you want to REALLY reduce "carbon footprint" ??? Or, is it about controlling the FREEDOM of the average non-elite???

        * If you believe that CO2 is a problem and you do NOT support nuclear, you are a HYPOCRITE

      4. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: This is good

        "It takes decade to build the stuff and by then we could have far more renewables than we need for similar build price."

        Wind and solar are very diffuse by their nature. The land area difference between them and a nuclear plant is huge. The nuclear plant is also going to operate 24/7 making the land use case even more lopsided.

        I'm not anti any technology, but we aren't going to leverage ourselves out of coal and gas in 5 years with wind and solar. The oil industry uses a tremendous amount of electricity and even with EV's, they are still going to operate. Crude oil turns out to be massively useful for all sorts of stuff that it isn't going to go away. This means that refineries are going to continue to need electricity in large portions even when they output far less transportation fuels. Where wind and solar might do well is for processes and needs that aren't sensitive to turning on and off. Ammonia production is a huge worldwide user of electricity, but small modular plants that operate when supply is high can be a good use of intermittent sources. It might even make more financial sense to use wind turbines to power modular ammonia plants rather than for grid power. I've seen discussion of that in the US where there is an extensive underground ammonia pipeline. Put an ammonia plant in a shipping container and plop it down near a pipeline with a wind turbine with some battery backup for graceful turn on and shut down. It would need a water source as well, but sites shouldn't be that hard to locate.

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: This is good

          "This means that refineries are going to continue to need electricity in large portions even when they output far less transportation fuels."

          What I failed to write was that oil refineries aren't a place where intermittent power works very well. They need reliable power for long periods to process the crude. Most of them operate 24/7 too.

  4. lglethal Silver badge

    I have to ask (as a fan of nuclear), what is the UK's solution for the waste?

    Ship it to Loch Ness to create a real Nessy?

    I can imagine a smaller reactor would create more waste (per unit energy) due to inefficiencies, so this is not a silly question ot be asking...

    1. EvilDrSmith

      Short term - above ground storage (the volumes are actually really quite small).

      Longer term - still working through options for very long term underground storage.

      The above both assume no development of technology that allows waste to be re-used as fuel (which I've seen discussed, but have no idea if is actually practical)

      1. dajames Silver badge

        The above both assume no development of technology that allows waste to be re-used as fuel (which I've seen discussed, but have no idea if is actually practical)

        There are two things you can do:

        1. Process part-used fuel and extract the unused fuel from the fission products to make new fuel (i.e. concentrate it). This is a good thing and a bit of a no-brainer ... but some of those byproducts are toxic, dangerous to handle, and require careful (and costly) storage and disposal.

        2. Incorporate some isotope in the fuel that turns into (maybe another sort of) fuel as the reactor runs (as 238U is added to Uranium fuel in a fast breeder reactor so that as the 235U is used up to generate power the 238U turns into 239Pu (which is also a fissile material and so can be used as a nuclear fuel)).

        The trouble with this is that Plutonium and its decay byproducts are rather more dangerous than Uranium and its byproducts. When the nuclear industry was young the production of Plutonium was seen as a good thing because it could be used as a fuel and in the manufacture of atomic bombs. Nowadays ... not so much.

        1. eldel

          Isn't there a (theoretical) design for a fast breeder variant that will "burn" the plutonium in a second stage? I'm pretty sure I read about one.

          1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

            Actually, it's not theoretic as AIUI it has been demonstrated with a real world operating system. In theory, it could take most of what we currently label as "waste" and reduce the actual waste bit to a fraction of what we are currently paying to deal with. AIUI there was a proposal from someone to build one near Sellafield but for whatever reasons it didn't happen - and I suspect that in part objections to anything creating (even temporarily, before consuming it too) plutonium.

            If we did build a few fast breeders, I believe we have enough "waste" in storage to supply our lecky needs for a century without digging any more uranium out of the ground.

            It does seem crazy. We have a supply of fuel, we have the technology, but instead of using that fuel we are going to spend a fortune disposing of it because some [make up your own description here] prefer to label it as waste.

            1. ClockworkOwl
              Go

              The important bit, is that there are schemes to separate the actinides (long lived radioactive 'fuel'), from the fission products (highly radioactive, shortish lived).

              If you do this the actinides go back to the breeder, and the waste fission products need storing. However, these are fairly short lived, and within 250 Years would be reduced to almost background levels.

              I can think of several 250 year old structures that are pretty solid still, in fact if they'd been stored in some of the local mines when they closed, we'd possibly be trying to mine them as a source of transition metals...

          2. Vulch

            Energy parks

            There was a proposal in the 60s to build something like four "energy parks" around the UK. Windscale, Dounreay and Dungeness plus one TBD were the locations IIRC. Each park would have one or two fast breeder reactors, a reprocessing plant and half a dozen plutonium burners. The idea meant that no highly radioactive material would ever need to be transported outside the parks, they'd bring in the starter fuel for the fast breeder which was relatively harmless, then the reprocessing plant would extract the plutonium to run the other reactors on site as well as deal with their end results.

        2. Arthur the cat Silver badge

          Fourth generation epithermal neutron reactors are supposed to be able to burn waste by converting it to useful fissile elements. It still needs research to see whether it's technically and economically feasible. If it is we probably have several centuries of power available from the current waste pile.

          There's also the idea of the Rubbia energy amplifier. Sadly he didn't get the funding to try building one with the old magnets available from the LHC upgrade.

        3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          "1. Process part-used fuel and extract the unused fuel from the fission products to make new fuel (i.e. concentrate it). This is a good thing and a bit of a no-brainer ... but some of those byproducts are toxic, dangerous to handle, and require careful (and costly) storage and disposal."

          Isn't that what the now defunct THORPE at Sellafield was for? IIRC, much of the world was sending stuff there to be re-processed.

          1. AndrueC Silver badge
            Boffin

            My first job was a data entry clerk for some surveyors during its construction. It was a tedious process so I wrote a program that took the data from the Huskies they were using and generated a CSV file from it. From there it could be imported into Lotus 1-2-3.

            So began my programming career :)

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Strangely, my first job as a field service engineer involved a contract for PC and printer maintenance for a firm of quantity surveyors involved in building THORPE so I had a few trips over there myself. I wonder if it was the same one, F+G? (They seem to have grown a lot and diversified since then too)

              1. AndrueC Silver badge
                Happy

                No I think I was working for Williamson Technical Services

                It was a long time ago but there is a company based in North Wales of that name so I'm probably right. They too appear to have grown which is nice to know. Think I was there around 1989.

      2. low_resolution_foxxes Silver badge

        It sounds weird, but they create hazardous symbols that could be interpreted by future civilisations, including AI. Cause otherwise they imagine AI societies who dig up stuff like pyramid explorers (not fun).

    2. Bartholomew Bronze badge
      Pint

      Watch a 2010 documentary film called "Into Eternity", it is mostly about Phase 1 of a facility being built on Olkiluoto Island in southwest Finland, where they plan to store 65 tons of spent nuclear fuel for a minimum of 100000 years. They started building the tunnels for the Onkalo spent nuclear fuel repository in 2004 and expect to begin storing waste in 2023 when Phase 4 is complete. KBS-3V storage does require that the waste is stored for 30 years to become less radioactive (For the 'hot' material to decay through their chain, eventual producing less neutrons) before it can be stored permanently, well for 100000 years hopefully all going well.

      It could actually work as envisioned, at least on paper it is the best attempt at long term nuclear storage that I've seen.

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        It could actually work as envisioned, at least on paper it is the best attempt at long term nuclear storage that I've seen.

        The best long term nuclear storage is Oklo; and that storage worked for at least 1.6 billion years without a problem which conclusively demonstrates that geological disposal of nuclear waste is viable over a long time period.

    3. R Soul Bronze badge

      Ship it to Loch Ness to create a real Nessy?

      I'm sure that harpie Sturgeon will be delighted to oblige. Good luck.

    4. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Happy

      Waste re-processing and recycling needs to be taken SERIOUSLY.

      And then we should be OK. Fusion is a decade or two away and we have PLENTY of Uranium and Thorium to build small reactors until then.

  5. theOtherJT

    Feels a bit late now...

    I'm broadly in favour of the whole small, modular reactor idea, but it does at this point feel rather like something we should have started doing 25 years ago. I'm glad they're doing it at all, I suppose - there's always going to be the need to do rapid-ramp-up generation to fill in the gaps caused by inconsistent sources like wind and solar, so I'm struggling to imagine a world where we won't need these at all... but we'd be in a damn sight better place if we'd started building them before replacing all the existing infrastructure had become something of an emergency.

    1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Re: Feels a bit late now...

      A big difference is that the technology is mostly already there, AND you don't get to have decades of civils needed.

      The reactor itself will be a factory built unit that gets put on a lorry and delivered to site already fuelled and ready to go. Slot it into the support systems built on site and away it goes. As the article mentions, the idea is that there will be many of the same design (like the French more or less go to with their big reactors) rather than lots of different and bespoke system like we were daft enough to do.

      But a massive part of the cost saving will be down to the support and safety systems. Our current big reactors need lots of safety kit to keep them working and safe - we saw from Fukashima what can happen if you take away those support system while there's a lot of decay heat still in the core. Other than the Westinghouse AP1000 design which incorporates truly passive cooling for a day or two while you get some support restored, they all need these systems which are very expensive - and hence drive the push for ever bigger plants.

      With the SMRs, they are intrinsically or inherently safe - basically they are designed in such a way that you could remove all the support systems, the reactor will shut down, and passive systems will cool it enough to prevent a meltdown or nuclear material release. The reactor may or may not be useable afterwards, but there won't be contamination, or exclusion zones, or hydrogen explosions (which made for good, but innacurate, TV at Fukashima). Just lift the reactor out and ship it back to the factory, fix the problems, pop a new reactor in the slot.

      That's where most of the savings will come from, by not needing the massively engineered safety systems, and huge crowds of very highly paid people to look after it.

      1. jmch Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Feels a bit late now...

        "huge crowds of very highly paid people to look after it."

        Surely just 1 is enough...

        https://ep00.epimg.net/elpais/imagenes/2014/03/07/icon/1394189087_693162_1394189181_noticia_normal.jpg

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Feels a bit late now...

        "The reactor itself will be a factory built unit that gets put on a lorry and delivered to site already fuelled and ready to go."

        Probably a much better idea to wait until all of the testing and inspections are done before putting the fuel in.

        "we saw from Fukashima what can happen if you take away those support system while there's a lot of decay heat still in the core."

        The passive cooling would have worked fine if they weren't turning it on and off due to a belief that it was bad to leave it going (it wasn't). The site lost power when the passive cooling system was shut off and nobody could tell it was off as there was still a bit of steam coming from the vents. If they had tested that system periodically as is done on the same model reactors in the US, the operators would know what it was like (lots of steam roaring out of the vents). It's rarely just one thing that goes wrong in a case like this. The chain of screwups is long at Fukushima. Fundamental design mistakes and operator errors and a natural disaster combined in the worst way.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Feels a bit late now...

          "The chain of screwups is long at Fukushima. Fundamental design mistakes and operator errors and a natural disaster combined in the worst way."

          Amen to that. Tepco had a long record of not doing things properly and being told off by regulatory authorities, but not actually addressing the underlying issues.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Feels a bit late now...

      "something we should have started doing 25 years ago"

      More than that. The technology was there once the 1st generation of nuclear subs & aircraft carriers were built. By now we should have been several generations in.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: Feels a bit late now...

        And presumably all we had to do was park a sub/aircraft carrier at the dockside and run a couple of cables...

        This is stage two; don't bother with the maritime hardware. With the added bonus that if people decide they don't like it where you've put it, you can pick it up (with care!) and put it somewhere else.

        1. batfink Silver badge

          Re: Feels a bit late now...

          IIRC the Russians have already started building floating reactors.

          Quite a cool idea for being able to relocate power to where it might be needed.

          However I'd guess their idea for decommissioning/waste disposal would be "let's tow that bastard out to sea somewhere and just sink it"...

          1. Spoobistle

            Re: Feels a bit late now...

            The Russians are already using them. I'm not an avid watcher of RT, but they currently have a 30 min featurette running about Akademik Lomonosov, feeding the small Arctic town of Pevek. The Wikipedia entry has a lot about the practicalities (cost etc).

    3. jmch Silver badge

      Re: Feels a bit late now...

      " it does at this point feel rather like something we should have started doing 25 years ago"

      To paraphrase/mangle an old (Chinese?) proverb... the best time to start this was 25 years ago. The next best time is now.

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Feels a bit late now...

      "but it does at this point feel rather like something we should have started doing 25 years ago."

      IIRC, it's been talked about for at least that long, but no one seems to have bothered so far. I suspect it's more about sweating assets, known tech and the incumbents only changing when being forced to do so. Likewise, as part of all of that, industry doesn't like to invest until it become urgent and they can say they need government grants to get started. The tech for small nuclear reactors has been around since the first nuclear powered submarines were launched.

      1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

        Re: Feels a bit late now...

        I'd add that without government being on-side and supporting it - by policy, not necessarily funding - it would be a massive risk. Just think if you've just invested [insert large value here] and then the government turns round and bans nuclear as happened in Germany as a knee jerk reaction driven by the greens after Fukashima. I suspect there's been more radioactivity released from the extra coal burned (but it's OK, that happened in Poland so doesn't count) to replace the nuclear.

        And over here, we've had a bit of a roller coaster ride in terms of political support for nuclear. Traditionally Labour have been agin it, while the Tories have been "sort of supportive but frightened of the minorities who shout very loudly". But as you point out, there's nothing like a good crisis to persuade people to stop kicking that tin can down the road.

  6. Mike 137 Silver badge

    Some submarine!

    "based on nuclear submarine technology"

    "the size of two football pitches"

    Can anyone explain how these two statements tie up?

    1. Licenced_Radio_Nerd

      Re: Some submarine!

      Whilst the reactor may be small, the equipment to control it, storage, turbines/generators, heat-pumps (it's not in the sea, so it may have to blow away the excess heat into the atmosphere (see Little Barford)), transformers and transmission lines all need space; as do the security fences, flood defences, staff canteen, et cetera.

      1. thondwe

        Re: Some submarine!

        Retired coal/gas fired stations aren't small - so these could form "plug replacements"?

        Whilst in favour of a backup to renewables - which can be a bit weather dependent - disposal of the mess is a problem..., IF ONLY they could get Fusion to work...

        1. batfink Silver badge

          Re: Some submarine!

          It's alright. Fusion is only thirty years away.

          1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

            Re: Some submarine!

            ITER's first plasma is scheduled for December 2025. For the hard of counting, that's just 4 years away.

            I confidently predict that even after that happens, whenever it actually happens, we'll still be hearing the "30 years away" joke.

            1. PerlyKing
              Boffin

              Re: ITER in 2025

              ITER is experimental, not a commercial power station.

              According to their FAQ page (Section "FUSION AS A SUSTAINABLE ENERGY SOURCE", question 3 "If successful, when would fusion be able to add power to the grid?") they're expecting fusion to contribute power to the grid by 2050, "a goal that it considers ambitious, yet realistic" - 25 years after first plasma and very nearly 30 years from now.

              1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

                Re: ITER in 2025

                Once ITER demonstrates that it can be done, investment will follow and commercial reactors will be up and running (in China, if nowhere else) within a few years.

                Future generations of historians will argue endlessly about why humanity refused to research what was obviously the most economically useful technology within reach for over half a century, but the best explanation they will ever come up with will be "because all the politicians were fucking idiots".

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: ITER in 2025

                  Where's the military angle in ITER and friends? Despite denials from some quarters, civil nukular stuff that has a chance of "military end use" seems to have different rules than nukular stuff that can't be expoited that way. There may also be geographic variations too.

          2. the Jim bloke Silver badge
            Coat

            Re: Some submarine!

            .. just a short flying-car drive round the corner, past the cure-for-cancer shop, but still a couple of blocks closer than world peace.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Some submarine!

            20 years away. It's always 20 years away.

    2. AdamT

      Re: Some submarine!

      i guess they will spread out a bit (because they can) but there will be some extra bits and pieces such as cooling systems (towers or river/sea feeds) and transformers - neither of which the sub needs(*). Also we might want a few fences and a bit of space to keep miscreants at bay - neither of which an armed, stealthy military vessel needs. Given the power output I would imagine these units will also be a fair bit bigger (as they are _based_ on subs rather than copying) but still nowhere near as big as e.g. Sizewell C

      (*) well the sea-water cooling is considerably closer for the sub.

      1. Wellyboot Silver badge

        Re: Some submarine!

        It'll definitely be spread out a bit! with no space restrictions it'll be possible to create a far more efficient (and maintainable) layout than one that fits into a 10m diameter tube and no requirement for using small premium cost components.

      2. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge

        Re: Some submarine!

        Surely a nuclear sub doesn't just vent its excess heat to the sea - that would give away its position really obviously.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Some submarine!

          Well unless they don't mind it getting very hot they must vent their excess to the sea. A nuclear reactor is basically a boiler generating steam - so it's a heat engine, and heat engines need heat differences to work. Nuclear subs do warm up the sea around hem - just little enough to be undetectable after the heat is dispersed in a few million tons of seawater.

      3. Cederic Silver badge

        Re: Some submarine!

        re: " we might want a few fences and a bit of space to keep miscreants at bay - neither of which an armed, stealthy military vessel needs"

        I'd hope the couple of football fields behind a fence don't need the command, control and infrastructure facilities needed to launch cruise missiles, fire torpedos and unleash nuclear armageddon, so they do get some space savings too.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Some submarine!

      >Can anyone explain how these two statements tie up?

      "Based on" is doing some very heavy lifting there. A submarine reactor is likely to be in the region of 200MWth, so something in the region of 70-80MWe. These SMRs are being pitched at 300+MWe, so right out of the gates they're on the order of three times the power output of the submarine reactors they're "based on".

      The rest of the size difference will be convenience and cost - if you dont need to squeeze everything into a submarine-sized footprint you probably don't want to. But I also suspect people don't quite clock just how big the current-gen UK submarines actually are - you don't get that much spare change in space difference between HMS Astute and a football pitch!

      1. Dr. G. Freeman
        Coat

        Re: Some submarine!

        " you don't get that much spare change in space difference between HMS Astute and a football pitch!"

        So, $(football manager of choice) won't be bringing on a sub ?

        It's the lead lined one, thanks -->

      2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Some submarine!

        Astute uses the second generation RR reactor - which is I believe bigger than the first. And is 7,000 tonnes in order to fit it in. The Trafalgar boats they're replacing were about 4,000 tonnes I think, about the same size as the new French boats. For contrast the standard WWII subs were about 1,000-1,500 tonnes - except the odd monsters that were about twice that - the French and Japanese seaplane carrying ones.

        The third gen reactor is already in production for the new Dreadnought class Trident boats (which will be over twice the size at about 18,000 tonne) - and is even bigger - and apparently won't even fit in an Astute.

        So our next hunter-killer sub will have to be even fatter to fit the new reactor in, or they'll have to design two different ones or keep making the old ones. Though if the Aussies buy Astute, then that is a problem they'll have to solve before they were planning to in 2030.

        One reason for the size difference with these land-based things may also be about fuelling. British naval reactors are designed not to be refuelled, and the previous generation only required a mid-life refuelling. But they're running at low power lots of the time, as the sub is often parked, or just bimbling along at a few knots and listening. That's not going to cut it for power generation, although being able to control the output is going to mean you can use these as "spinning reserve" instead of gas - something you can't do with a full-fat nuclear power station. So you'll need to be able to refuel them more regularly.

        Also US and UK sub reactors use highly enriched uranium. I don't see how you can change the fuel without a total re-design, costing more than a few hundred million to design.

    4. captain veg Silver badge

      Re: Some submarine!

      > Can anyone explain how these two statements tie up?

      It's bigger on the inside. Obviously.

      -A.

    5. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Some submarine!

      sub reactors are small enough to fit in a sub. Right?

      And the rest of the area might be needed for secondary systems, power distribution equipment, nuclear waste storage, and the obligatory cooling towers to reject the "2nd law of thermodynamics" heat.

  7. Licenced_Radio_Nerd
    Happy

    District heating system

    It would be nice to see SMR installations in large town/cities integrated into a district heating system, along with local waste incinerators. It would be a handy way to get rid of in-house heating solutions (like gas boilers), as well as heating schools, shops, businesses, in/outdoor pools, et al. I may go further and add loops in the roads and pavements for defrosting in the winter - thus saving the spread of tonnes of salt. The road loops could also be used in the summer to heat water in homes / local pools.

    Of course, none of the above will ever happen due to cost and everything being built in isolation.

    But it is nice to dream...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: District heating system

      The challenge with district heating isn't the heating, it's the district bit. We haven't got a snowball's chance of retrofitting district heating systems to our existing housing stock. We should be building them into new housing projects, but given how much money housing developers shovel at the current crop of ministers that also won't happen without political change.

      1. Spoobistle

        Re: District heating system

        I'm not so sure about that. I do believe there is one going in, in Stoke on Trent. I also wonder if you could combine heat pumps with district "warm water" systems (or maybe that's how these things work anyway) to minimise all that outdoor heat exchanger contraption. It's about time the pavements were dug up again anyway, for something more useful than yet another fibre optic duct!

        1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

          Re: District heating system

          We have district heating here in our little village near Potsdam. A man came to change the measurement unit this week, and I was impressed with the insulation on the pipes - until I realised that heat radiating from the incoming pipework would heat the house directly, and not actually be measured! Can't have that, of course...

          The device itself is delightfully simple; a couple of loops straight from the high-temperature water to the radiators, and hot water on the drinking water supply via a heat exchanger about a foot by four inches square.

          Looks like the measurement is a temperature difference between input and output and a flow measurement. Multiply one by the other to get a direct energy usage.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: District heating system

          >I'm not so sure about that. I do believe there is one going in, in Stoke on Trent....

          There is indeed. Work started on it in 2014. It's three years behind schedule and counting because everyone involved grossly underestimated the cost and complexity of laying a new piping network into a century-old town centre. £50-something million of public money spent to deliver district heating to something like 1,000 homes and a handful of businesses. Unless someone comes up with a _much_ cleverer way to do things, we'll all be much better off with heat pumps.

      2. SImon Hobson Silver badge

        Re: District heating system

        They're doing it in Bristol - and like the other example given, causing massive disruption while doing it.

        But you are right - it's a properly joined up way fo doing things.

        The big problem is likely to be the tiny little issue that they tend to put nuclear reactors a long way from lots of houses - something about people not wanting them in their back yards ? And district heating does work best when your source of heat, and the use for that heat, are reasonably close together.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: District heating system

      Our bit of France has a district heating system. Sized to heat the apartment building in subzero winter weather, it's so hot the rest of the time that the residents control it by opening windows. Not the most efficient approach.

      1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
        WTF?

        Re: so hot the rest of the time that the residents control it by opening windows

        The residents can't simply shut off the incoming heating supply when they don't wnat it i.e. during the summer?

        There's no thermostat or thermostatic valve to shut off the heating supply once the desired temperature is reached?

        No thermostatic values on the individual radiators? No basic on-off taps on individual radiators?

        Sounds like a very stupid, badly thought out, badly implemented and inefficient system.

    3. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: District heating system

      District heating systems, particularly in the UK where we don't seem to do communal infrastructure very well, are not without their practical problems.

      I looked at a new estate with such a system and not only would it have been significantly more expensive than traditional heating, you were dependent on a monopoly, private-sector supplier with no obvious incentive to invest in maintenance or control costs.

      Having a joined-up plan for energy supply that involves multiple technologies would be easier if there were some sort of national organisation, perhaps with representatives elected by members of the public, tasked with long-term responsibility for delivering a solution.

  8. adam 40 Silver badge
    WTF?

    One million homes - I don't think so

    300MW / 1000000 = 300W per home in my estimation.

    Putting on the kettle is 2.2kW, in a ad break at half time of _whatever_ will overload it.

    Then we are supposed to be moving to heat pumps, that's 4kW per home continuous, minus the 100 homes closest to the reactor who'll be heated by gamma rays and neutrons :-)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: One million homes - I don't think so

      A typical kettle runs for 60-90 seconds and heat pumps do not run continuously. The average UK home uses about 10kWh of electricity on a given day. Hence 300MW over 24 hours gets you 7.2GWh, or something in the region of 720,000 homes. You can shave about 30% off that figure if everyone's using a heat pump and another, smaller, chunk for electric cars. But that only improves the value proposition, because both heat pumps and electric cars can function as the equivalent of grid-scale storage by working overnight.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: One million homes - I don't think so

        I think the OP's point, however, is that demand can be subject to short peaks. It would need some form of short term storage to cover those. 1% of that million homes homes having an electric kettle switched on at the same time will take up a substantial percentage of the total output.

        1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

          Re: One million homes - I don't think so

          That's what facilities like Dinorwig are for. You can even read El Reg's article about it.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: One million homes - I don't think so

            "That's what facilities like Dinorwig are for."

            You might need a few more of those if the articles numbers are used as the basis for future planning. You have to plan for peak usage, not just average daily usage.

          2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: One million homes - I don't think so

            "That's what facilities like Dinorwig are for."

            Yes, I know. What we need is a supply of old slate mines to build a few more.

            There's one local reservoir perched on a hillside with another, bigger one a few hundred feet below that could be used like that although the angling club that uses the upper one might be miffed if their water & fish suddenly drained away.

            I also came across an idea for using weights in redundant coal mine shafts in a similar way although I wonder if the total capacity of that would be enough to do any good or even enough to make the installation pay for itself.

            1. Stoneshop Silver badge
              Boffin

              Re: One million homes - I don't think so

              I also came across an idea for using weights in redundant coal mine shafts in a similar way

              Energy storage by moving a mass against gravity is not a very feasible proposition. One ton through a 100m drop will yield 1000*100*9.8 Nm, rounded 1MJ, which is a bit under 0.28kWh. Now you can probably find deeper mine shafts, and cast concrete[0] blocks that fit their shaft fairly closely. Let's take a shaft that accepts a 40 sq.m 'plunger'; with the specific density of concrete that would result in 100 tons per meter thickness of the plunger. A 1km deep shaft with a 1000 ton weight would yield 2.8MWh, barely enough to power 10 average British households (12kWh/day) for a full 24hr.

              [0] which has its own environmental problems.

              1. Stoneshop Silver badge
                Boffin

                Re: One million homes - I don't think so

                Oh, and by the way, the above numbers are not adjusted with regards to conversion losses. Pumped storage such as Dinorwig operates at about 75%; I expect "weights in a mine shaft" to have a similar efficiency.

        2. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: One million homes - I don't think so

          small reactors, as I pointed out before, typically have negative temperature coefficients, which mean that they can respond to varying demand much better than a coal, oil, or large nuclear plant could.

          In short, as temperature goes up, power will drop, stabilizing the system.

          Large reactors typically have positive temperature coefficients, making them inherently unstable. They raise power slowly, then maintain it at a constant for weeks/months at a time. Hydro, wind, and diesel plants take up the peaks. SMR would eliminate the need of peaker plants and varying load on hydro and wind. So it's a good thing if you believe that CO2 is hurting the planet.

          (I do not believe CO2 is a problem but nuke power is a good thing anyway)

    2. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Re: One million homes - I don't think so

      Your kettle may be 2 to 3 kW - but it's only on for a short time. The average, across many houses, is actually quite low. At a local level I believe the DNOs work on around 1kW/house for sizing the local network.

      On a national level, the total load tends to be in the order of 30GW, rising in winter. So with something in the order of 30M homes, that would work out at 1kW/home if you ignore all the industrial users.

      But as you say, with the drive to electrify everything, that average will be going up considerably.

      1. Wellyboot Silver badge

        Re: One million homes - I don't think so

        Unfortunately as we all want to cook and heat our homes at about the same times during the day, the grid supply needs to cater for maximum usage not the average. We'll need dozens of these but on the upside quite a few can be built in parallel.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: One million homes - I don't think so

          Unfortunately as we all want to cook and heat our homes at about the same times during the day,

          I don't think anyone is suggesting that these will be the only source of electricity generation and a million homes will depend on one. The number quoted, a nice round million probably is the average use of a house compared to the energy output, but there will be Sizewells and Hinckley Point and all the big fans , hydro and solar farms to back them up when demand is peak.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: One million homes - I don't think so

          Or maybe we will just have to become a bit more imaginative. When everyone gets their TV via the internet, easy to stagger half time for the FA cup final for different households so as to avoid having everyone put their kettle on at he same moment.

        3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: One million homes - I don't think so

          Unfortunately as we all want to cook and heat our homes at about the same times during the day, the grid supply needs to cater for maximum usage not the average. We'll need dozens of these but on the upside quite a few can be built in parallel.

          I do this for a living. It's called a diversity calculation. At least it is in the water industry. So you've got to look at both how much water you need per day, as well as being able to cover peak demand. But not panic and oversize everything so much that it becomes inefficient - or in the case of water actively dangerous. Oversized tanks risk becoming stagnant and then breeding grounds for bacteria.

          I'm always having this fight with design engineers - because they don't want to be the one that under-sized the system. So everything ends up bigger than it need be.

          So, for example, your statement is missing an important factor. Yes we mostly get up and cook in a relatively limited period, which causes higher demand. So let's say that most people get up between 6:30 - 8:00 and most cook between 17:00 - 20:00. As you can see, that's already divided those massive peaks into much smoother and less scary time periods. You've also forgotten industry. During the day factories are using leccy as are offices with their lights and computers. Most of these aren't working at these times of day - so actually the load is much more evenly divided over the day than you might think. There's still the problem of the overnight drop in demand, where most homes and businesses aren't drawing much power. And that's where we eiher need to use smart meters to run dishwashers and charge electric cars or fill-up storage. Or get base load generation that can be more easily switched off.

    3. KarMann
      Headmaster

      Re: One million homes - I don't think so

      One thing I think many of the replies, both here and to Mike 137 above, are missing, is that what they mean by 'a SMR power station … the size of two football pitches' might mean a power station with an arbitrary number of these modules on site. That's kind of the point of the talk of scalability and 'deploying incrementally'. But certainly, from what's quoted here at least, it isn't clear whether they're talking about a single module or a conglomerate station.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: One million homes - I don't think so

        Given this country's track record with large scale infrastructure projects, I fear such an endeavour will overrun on both time and budget and end up leaving us with something built for, but not with, SMRs.

        1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: One million homes - I don't think so

          'Tis a fine barn, but is no Small Modular Reactor, English.

          [The one with the book of Simpsons references in the pocket, please]

        2. Man inna barrel Bronze badge

          Re: One million homes - I don't think so

          The advantage of SMRs is that the capital expenditure is incremental: you can get usable output from the modules as they are built. By contrast, you have to spend a vast amount on a large scale nuclear plant before there is any productive operation. In fact, with the large scale plant, you don't really know if it is going to work as planned until you have spent a substantial amount of your budget. With the modular approach, you can treat the first installations as proof-of-principle prototypes, maybe take a bit of a loss, but then do better next time when you fix the bugs.

    4. Piro Silver badge

      Re: One million homes - I don't think so

      That's a feeble kettle for the UK, sounds like a Euro-spec kettle without the almighty power of the 32 Amp ring main.

      1. The Basis of everything is...
        Flame

        Re: One million homes - I don't think so

        Your ring main might have a 32A fuse on it, but that is based on 2 paths for the current to reach your socket and IIRC that cable might only be 26A on an individual path (depends on which version of the wiring regs used at the time, assuming it wasn't simply bodged.)

        And the kettle flex certainly won't take 32A for very long before things get melty...

        NB. Mucking with ring mains is not a job for amateurs. Do proper research and get a real sparky in if you have any doubts about what you're thinking of doing safe and legal for where you live. 240V fing hurts, as do 3rd degree burns from setting your house alight.

    5. markrand
      Flame

      Re: One million homes - I don't think so

      Bugger that. What happened to power being measured in MW and area being measured in acres or hectares.

      Just because half of the population are educationally subnormal, there's no reason to insult the rest of us with meaningless 'units'

  9. ComputerSays_noAbsolutelyNo Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Time for something new

    Windscale - graphite fire

    Three Mile Island - plain meltdown (?)

    Chernobyl - graphite fire

    Fukushima - hydrogen explosion

    "One design, the Toshiba 4S, a micro-sodium-cooled reactor, is supposed to require little supervision."

    ??? - sodium fire

    Bring it on!

    1. Mishak Silver badge

      Chernobyl - graphite fire

      No, though it did end up with it burning.

      TLDR; there was a power excursion event (there is even some evidence of a small nuclear explosion, based on fission product releases, but that is disputed by some) that resulted in a steam explosion.

      1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Re: Chernobyl - graphite fire

        I thought the problem with Chernobyl was that it was down for maintenance and some bright spark thought "what if we try taking out all the control rods to see what happens?"(*)

        (*) Not in so many words, but the wannabe boffin equivalent.

        1. Dave Pickles

          Re: Chernobyl - graphite fire

          Not quite. The reactor was coming up to its summer shutdown and it was planned to run a test to see if the rotational energy in the turbine could be used to power essential electrical loads should the reactor trip - if so it wouldn't be necessary to have standby diesel generators running continuously just in case. Unfortunately they botched the process of reducing the reactor output and grossly undershot the level needed for the test. The control rods were withdrawn far beyond normal in an attempt to correct, resulting in a power surge and explosion.

          1. David 132 Silver badge

            Re: Chernobyl - graphite fire

            If that HBO drama series is in any way accurate on this topic (yeah, I know) the crucial factor was that the boron control rods were carbon-tipped; so when the panic-shutdown-the-reactor scram button was pressed, reinserting all the control rods, the first thing that re-entered the core was not nice cuddly moderating boron, but dangerously provocative carbon. Fun and kaboom immediately followed, as the “safe” Soviet RBMK reactor did what was conventionally believed to be impossible, and exploded.

      2. Dave559 Silver badge

        Re: Chernobyl - graphite fire

        "power excursion event" - ah, some of the extreme euphemisms the nuclear industry uses are really quite 'special'. See also the rocket scientists' favourite, "rapid unscheduled disassembly" (arguably much the same thing, in effect, from the perspective of any unfortunate nearby 'observer')…

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Time for something new

      Once upon a time computers occupied large rooms. In the early days they needed a good stock of spare valves to be kept on hand. Nowadays you can put a far more powerful one in your pocket. It's called technological development. You may have heard of it. It enables things to be made smaller, better and more reliable.

      One of our problems is that the naysayers had their way for a long time. We're now way behind where we should have been in terms of development and in the meantime we've been shoving huge quantities of carbonaceous fossil materials up power-station chimneys for decades so that (a) our descendants won't have those available as non-fuel industrial raw materials when they need them and (b) people are, if you haven't noticed, starting to worry about the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

  10. Bitsminer Silver badge

    not so scalable

    Some of the American companies started at 30MWe or even 10MWe and are now talking 100+. It seems the cost of pumps, monitoring, etc not to mention the engineering is not proportional to output power, so to make any kind of money the price has to exceed the costs. And price does scale with output.

    And the regulators! They will write more regulations, not fewer, in spite of the "simplicity" of the designs. The regulatory burden will make these uneconomic as regulation becomes multi-national, hence a UK design will need to meet both UK and whatever-you-have-elsewhere regulations. N*N, as we say.

    It may be too cheap to meter but not too cheap to regulate.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: not so scalable

      "hence a UK design will need to meet both UK and whatever-you-have-elsewhere regulations."

      Yeahbut, isn't that the prime tenet of Brexit? Bring back our sovereignty, get rid of European rules blah, blah, blah.

  11. Scott Broukell

    Low hanging fruit

    Is this not just the low hanging, if rather risky, nuclear fruit? By which I mean several things;

    1)-Right now we have no scalable/workable energy storage solution for wind and solar, sadly (although efforts to devise such methods are on going).

    2)-It gets us towards lowering emissions more quickly than getting 68M+ people to adjust their life style choices to eat very little if any meat, give up jetting off abroad twice a year for hols and giving up on ICE powered vehicles.

    3)-It has the potential to be a nice little earner for some!

    Whilst I am not entirely against the concept of SMRs, this development should not be seen as a silver bullet such that we loose track of the tremendous effort still required looking ahead at least 50+ years in order for us to even start to see some re-balancing benefits. The harder tasks and solutions will still need to be dealt with as well in order to add to what is proposed here.

    So by all means pick some low hanging fruit but we had better be building the ladders (technology) that are urgently needed to get us to the prize fruits higher up!

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge

      Re: Low hanging fruit

      60 odd million peeps will require all their gas central heating be replaced as well, several tens of GW worth, compared to that, a few hours in a plane and less meat pies are a rounding error.

      Still, as the ICE replacement is under way we'd better get the lead out building the generator capacity that needs.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Low hanging fruit

        Because we are all heading into the Metaverse, every individual will need dual NVidia 4090 cards to drive their life, and their homes can be heated by the waste heat from these cards.

        Still got to power them though.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Low hanging fruit

        "Still, as the ICE replacement is under way we'd better get the lead out "

        We already did switch to unleaded, years ago :-)

  12. deive

    In related news https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/risk-nuclear-leak-sparks-call-installation-flood-defences-9146887.html

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Well, not quite "news". Although the article doesn't appear to be dated (maybe because I have scripts blocked), but from that article, "led by the US engineering firm URS, which is contracted to manage the LLWR to 2018,", so I suspect it's from at least a few years before that. I can't find anything more current, so can't tell if things have improved or nor yet.

      1. deive

        It's from 2014 - since then we have obviously cleaned up all that nuclear waste and have our coastal defences completely ready for the ocean rising. Or not.

  13. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Survivor

    I know someone who survived Chernobyl. Nice chap, but difficult to know which of his heads you should talk to.

    Jokes aside, Nuclear is the only viable near-term solution.

    1. cantankerous swineherd

      Re: Survivor

      unfortunately it's nowhere near near term.

      solar and wind can be done now.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: Survivor

        We need the nukes now or we are utterly screwed.

        Let's just look at gas:

        As I write this the total UK electricity demand was 40GW. 50% of this supply is from burning gas. (54% from fossil fuels).

        So we need to double non-fossil fuel production capacity, just to meet current demand.

        Note that solar can't play any part in that because right now, it's dark, and the pumped storage is running...

        Wind is providing under half its nameplate capacity, which is at the upper end of what it's ever done. Yesterday it generated roughly half as much.

        We need to replace gas heating too. That's another 60GW extra electricity generation, give or take 10GW.

        So we need to double the total current capacity, using something that works when it's dark and not windy.

        So we need nuclear, purely to let us stop burning gas.

        Then there's oil for transport...

        1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          Re: Survivor

          Electricity is about 25% of the UK's energy consumption. The rest is mostly fossil carbon. If you want to go completely clean, you need to increase the clean sources about 8-fold.

          Oh, and most of the world's population would like the living standards that go with that level of energy consumption, but are currently nowhere near that.

          We, as in humanity, are going to need a lot of nukes.

    2. David 132 Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Survivor

      Zaphod? I know him, he's a hoopy frood who really knows where his towel is.

    3. Dagg

      Re: Survivor

      Nuclear is the only viable near-term solution.

      How? When it takes 10 plus years to implement. Here in Australia roof top solar is booming and with a house battery you can go off grid.

      When ever I hear about a nuclear solution my immediate thought is cost benefit

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge
        FAIL

        Off-grid is a tale told by an idiot

        Think about how many batteries that would take.

        It's genuinely impossible, the raw materials don't exist.

        The grid is absolutely necessary, and far far far far far more efficient as you can generate from "elsewhere" when local generation isn't possible.

        Plus storage gets more efficient as it gets larger.

        That aside, most countries (and much of Australia) aren't the Australian outback/suburbs. Homes are small, roof space is limited.

        Also it's dark a lot of the time and total insolation is quite low.

        1. Dagg

          Re: Off-grid is a tale told by an idiot

          Think about how many batteries that would take.

          Bugger all, In Aus as a rough guide (as at January 2021) a 5kWh battery system fully installed would likely cost around $5000 – $9000, a 10kWh battery system could cost $7500 – $12,000 the 5kWh battery pack is about the size of a large suitcase and mounts on the outside wall.

          Most roof top solar is between 3 and 6 kWh so matches the batteries nicely. I have a small inner city house UK terrace style and I can fit 3-6 kWh of solar panels no problem.

  14. cantankerous swineherd

    200 million bung to keep RR on the road now aero engines looking a bit sick.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      RR? Raynesway Rules?

      "200 million bung to keep RR on the road now aero engines looking a bit sick."

  15. rh16181618190224

    25 years too late - more like 40

    I'm old enough to have worked on Heysham 1 and Heysham 2 when they were being built.

    We had the technology and could have carried on, not putting large amounts of CO2 and SO2* into the atmosphere. I think the objectors to Nuclear power did a great job of scaring people with the waste argument, so everything stopped. But I think they were mistaken.

    Things are different now, and even if Nuclear is not the final answer, we are too late not to have a zero CO2 energy source as a reserve. I'm all for renewables, but they don't always get the base load, and the battery storage is not there yet.

    * Remember when acid rain was the problem?

  16. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    30 yrs late

    thanks to the 'green' movement

    Actually the green movement has been dead a long time now... it was taken over by the marxists after their beloved soviet union fell apart...

    Which a explains a conversation with a 'green' party member who was advocating installing a wind turbine on every house because that will set us free from 'big energy co', 'fossil fuel plc' and 'big business' generally.

    He got very unhappy when pointed out that a simple 5 bladed turbine for every house would require 30 million turbines built with 150 million blades made (with millions more as spares..) and that the company making them will become extremely rich, able to buy.. sorry lobby politicians and generally become exactly like the 'big businesses' he hated already...

    Anyway... about bloody time.. heres to Sizewell C, Dungerness C and Heysham C as well and finally stop throwing crap up exhaust pipes....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 30 yrs late

      Greens are like any other flavour of political movement: there are members who understand science, and there are those who don't, who are easily led on by scaremongerers and big scarey words that they don't really know the meaning of.

      For example, look at the split between those in favour of HS2 (OK, it's possibly not the most wisely thought out scheme, and there's certainly an element of pork barrel and willy-waving in it, but it's generally the right sort of idea), and those against it because (oh noes) some trees will be cut down (ignoring both that new trees will be planted and turning a complete blind eye to those trees cut down in motorway construction, and that lots of people driving everywhere is neither big nor clever in the long run, whereas improving the rail network and simultaneously also freeing up space on existing routes is).

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How many reactor's have been fully decommissioned?

    Maybe if the company director's are made personally liable for the complete decommissioning including all costs with full life term mandatory sentences for any failure to do so, then maybe. Saying we can recover some material or use a process that makes bomb materials doesn't cut it. This is normal high spending for defence contractors giving away money. Last time I looked we had abundant guaranteed wave energy that will increase with climate change, give 200 million towards developing that.

    1. electricmonk

      Re: How many reactor's have been fully decommissioned?

      Upvote for the bucket of reality thrown over the flights of fantasy and wishful thinking in here.

      Downvote for the apostrophes.

    2. PerlyKing
      FAIL

      Re: Maybe if the company director's are made personally liable

      I think AC is not familiar with the concept of the limited liability company.

    3. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: abundant guaranteed wave energy that will increase with climate change

      Wave and tidal are not remotely practical at the necessary scale.

      The operating environment is too harsh, the devices are far too expensive to install and maintain, and they've been proven to alter coastal errosion and deposition patterns in ways that are often damaging, and at best need additional costly measures to mitigate the change.

      You just can't take that much energy out of a system and expect everything in and around where it happens to remain the same.

      Applies to wind power as well as wave power. You can't drawn the amount of energy we need from the atmosphere without it affecting local weather patterns. Possibly regional or even global, but I don't know, I'm simply extrapolating based on the number of wind turbines we'd need to be fully supplied.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: abundant guaranteed wave energy that will increase with climate change

        Just on your wind issue. I'll think you will find that wind energy is already taken out of the system. By trees, houses and hills. Also by cars, ants and grass blades. If it wasn't it would be very windy.

  18. Mike Richards

    HEU?

    Most submarine reactors use highly-enriched uranium (HEU) which is 85%+ U-235 and a serious proliferation risk. Anyone know if these civil power reactors use a similar level of enrichment?

    The world really doesn't need more HEU circulating, especially when you know manufacturers and governments will want to export these reactors to anyone with the ready money.

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Re: HEU?

      If you're not building for use in submarines where space is at a premium, you don't particularly need the highly enriched stuff as fuel. The IAEA and their ilk would also have some objections against using HEU in civilian installations, so they would likely withhold their blessing if that were the case.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Summary of 3 pages of El Reg comment

    Can I summarize? We need nuclear/fusion/wind farms (delete as appropriate) but we want someone else pay for it.

    But don't worry about that because there are a whole load of technological advances that we have known about for the last 50 years that will magically solve all the issues, and haven't been implemented yet because of green nimbys/big nuclear/government (delete as appropriate).

    But do worry because we will die in a nuclear catastrophe/slow poisoning/when a wind turbine catapults a stray albatross into the path of our electric scooter select your preferred horrid demise).

    We can dismiss any possibility of actually changing our lifestyles in any way to cope with new realities and costs because today/20 years ago/the 1950s (delete according to your techno/political nostalgia) were the perfect era.

    So basically, we'll muddle through, the lights will stay on some of the time, corporations and ex ministers will get richer on government grants, until eventually the sea laps around our feet and we drift off into the sunset.

  20. Karl Vegar

    Am I the only one thinking

    Nuclear powered electric car?

    Created by RR, yeah that makes sense.

    1. Dave559 Silver badge

      Re: Am I the only one thinking

      The Big Bus got there first!

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Rolls Royce

    With a Rolls Royce reactor all you should be able to hear is the soothing tick of the radiation monitors...

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