Small Modular Reactors to bring new life to Trawsfynydd?

Following a government competition to boost the technology for building small modular reactors (SMRs), the site at Trawsfynydd in North Wales is emerging as a candidate to build a number of SMRs with an electricity output of under 300 megawatts. Companies from UK, China, Korea and the US have shown an interest in the site of a former Magnox nuclear power station in the Snowdonia National Park to develop the project.

Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Amber Rudd MP, has announced that 38 companies had submitted expressions of interest to take part in the competition. Among them are understood to be American groups Westinghouse and Bechtel, CNNC of China, and a Korean-led consortium linked to the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute. Britain’s Rolls-Royce is also involved as part of NuScale Power, a US-led group headed by Fluor, another US engineering giant. The successful ones were notified this week. The government has set up a fund of about £250 million over the next five years for this project.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) owns the 15-acre site at Trawsfynydd and the process to demolish the UK’s only inland nuclear plant and remediate the site on a lake will take until the 2080s at the earliest. The site was not included in the 2009 list of eight sites approved for construction of new nuclear stations, partly due to its smaller size and its location in a national park with more limited access to cooling water. But political support both in Wales and Westminster has been growing in favour of adding Trawsfynydd to the list. A study by the engineering firm Arup commissioned by the Welsh government recommended the site as suitable for SMRs.

The other three NDA-owned sites on the list – Wylfa in Anglesey, Moorside in Cumbria and Oldbury, Gloucestershire – have been purchased by Horizon and NuGen, which are planning large reactors.