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« The silence of the wells | Main | Game just changed again »
Tuesday
Mar222016

Oh no! It's DECC!

 

In Parliament yesterday, energy minister Greg Hands explained that DECC is organising a modular nuclear reactor competition for the UK.

Following the announcement made at the Budget, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) launched the first phase of a competition to identify the best value small modular reactor for the UK on the 17th March. This development builds on a previous announcement, made at Autumn Statement 2015, that DECC would conduct this competition to help pave the way towards building one of the world’s first small modular reactors in the UK.

Surely one of the most important advantages of small modular nuclear reactors is that you can have competition among many suppliers. Different niches, including "best value", can be found from the bottom up.

Why would we want a top-down process to find the best value modular reactor? And surely DECC are the last people on earth who you would want running it?

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Reader Comments (115)

The Thought of nuclear power being done on a "Best Value" option scares me somewhat.

Mar 22, 2016 at 9:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterJustAnotherPoster

'Ere mate, oi've got this modular nuke from a scuttled Russky submarine.

One one owner, going cheep!

Oh sorry, forget that, its only a wonky alarm system....

Where is it from?

Oh, the Norwegian Sea; very clean place that, no problem with barnacles.

Mar 22, 2016 at 9:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

Because thats what Governments do!

Will anything useful come out of this competition...of course not. But thats not the intended outcome is it?

Mailman

Mar 22, 2016 at 9:33 AM | Unregistered Commentermailman

Everything has to be done top-down these days. After all, the PPEs are the country's elite people and they know how to run everything from Westminster. They have such a vast wealth of experience of working in the real world. That is why there are no problems in the country. There is no food poverty, no fuel poverty, the lights will stay on, we have no debt and a budget surplus, the NHS is super, education is marvellous, the EU gives us all we need. What could possibly go wrong with a top-down approach from the PPEs?

Mar 22, 2016 at 9:36 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Is there competence in UK to procure stuff like that?

Mar 22, 2016 at 9:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterEx-expat Colin

The competition is attracting fervent attention at the nations primary academies
My Nookleer Reakter

Mar 22, 2016 at 9:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterLord Beaverbrook

Oh dear. If DECC are to organise and judge this, the winning design will have to have solar panels and a windmill on the top.

Mar 22, 2016 at 9:40 AM | Registered Commenterlapogus

Then of course ONR get to have their say...

Mar 22, 2016 at 9:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

A pity that they do not follow the lead of the Indians and Chinese towards Thorium liquid salt reactors.

Mar 22, 2016 at 9:58 AM | Unregistered Commentersrga

Just for explanation, 22 years ago I worked with a team developing sintered metal and ceramic filters to take out particulate radionuclides from Russky subs sunk in the Norwegian Sea, also Hanford Arsenal waste ponds. It's not new stuff.

Mar 22, 2016 at 10:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

I don't think I understand.

I am not sure what is wrong with a competition to find he best "value" (value being a subjective term) modular reactor. If by preferring a "bottom up competition" you mean that the Civil Servants decide how it is built, that would be more of a concern to me.

On the other hand, getting the market to filter various designs and technology into a competitive final product seems to me as a preferable solution. After all, that is what the market does best. Tell it what you want and then get the various participants to coalesce into a solution.

Mar 22, 2016 at 10:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeckko

Why would we want a top-down process to find the best value modular reactor?

To make the regulators' lives easier and to anoint a design to try and sell to the rest of the world. Yet the discovery of a potential design fault could see them all have to go offline as a precaution. We have a clear precedent for this kind of regulatory blind spot too - having banks all doing the same things did wonders for financial stability...

Mar 22, 2016 at 10:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

...because there is no money in the kitty.

Mar 22, 2016 at 10:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

The goal is surely to make a nuclear power station a bog standard civil engineering project, into which is slotted a number of pre-fabricated components that assemble like flat-pack furniture to make a nuclear reactor.

That is not an engineering problem as such, but it becomes one when industry wants to try something new and costs spiral out of control, but with a captive customer. We don't need the world's best nuclear power station, just one that works, and there are hundreds that already fit that bill.

Mar 22, 2016 at 10:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterMikky

Phillip Bratby@9:36

+1

The presumption of these idjits is without limit.

I'm perhaps overly fond of invoking Douglas Adams' "B Ark" but our pols and most of our public servants are doing a bang up job of demonstrating that a sound grasp of homeopathic telephone sanitisation management is a perfect preparation for any challenge that life throws at you.

eesh... with experts like wot they got.... who needs enemies?

quality stuff

Mar 22, 2016 at 10:57 AM | Registered Commentertomo

Just invented the best Commercial Name for the consortium: Nukea.......:o

Mar 22, 2016 at 10:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

Maybe the goal is to insure that small small modular reactors are never developed.

Mar 22, 2016 at 11:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterGamecock

@Gamecock

inviting Greenpiss to give their advice would confirm your suggestion - no doubt the BBC will weigh in with some incredible insights from 9 & 10 year olds trumping contradicting the nuclear experts.

Mar 22, 2016 at 11:06 AM | Registered Commentertomo

We all know that the main problem with wind is that it is not always blowing. The main problem with solar is that the sun is not always shining.
We KNOW what the problems are so why are we frittering away our efforts with this nuclear stuff ? Lets fix what we already have instead of going down yet more uneconomic blind alleys.

- 'Streamer' Clarke

Mar 22, 2016 at 11:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterEternalOptimist

'A pity that they do not follow the lead of the Indians and Chinese towards Thorium liquid salt reactors.'
Mar 22, 2016 at 9:58 AM | srga

Thorium is not fissile. 'Thorium . . . reactor' is gibberish.

Mar 22, 2016 at 11:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterGamecock

Th233 is converted to U233 which is fissile.

What that means is the reactor is intrinsically safe in that the fossil material is created when needed instead of lying there as a potentially very dangerous lump if the moderator and cooling doesn't work.

Mar 22, 2016 at 11:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

@EternalOptimist

- 'Streamer' Clarke ??

sounds like a proponent of re-purposing native American raindance for windmills and enabling 24 hour sunshine.... possibly with more incense and community drumming?

Mar 22, 2016 at 11:23 AM | Registered Commentertomo

Well, if they've announced a competition then at least we can be sure that they've already selected a winner. That's progress, of a sort.

Mar 22, 2016 at 11:47 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

This is disturbing to a large extent! When the Guvment went to the engineering consultants to get a replacement for the orbital road system for London, the consultants took on board the requirements for traffic loading, & told them that they would need a 4 lane motorway system to achieve it. The civil servants told the consultants that this was unacceptable & we are not America, we only require three lanes as a maximum. The consultants said otherwise. So the guvment built a three laned orbital motorway system called the M25, the worlds largest Car Park, until they relented & added a fourth lane that wasn't needed because the civil servants knew best in the first place! Oh well, there is such a thing as gifted amateurs, I suppose!

Mar 22, 2016 at 12:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

Well, if they've announced a competition then at least we can be sure that they've already selected a winner. That's progress, of a sort.
Mar 22, 2016 at 11:47 AM | michael hart

So it would seem. :) Rolls Royce?

https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2016/03/22/rolls-royce-angling-as-medium-term-solution-to-uk-power-crisis/

Mar 22, 2016 at 12:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterMick J

Our nuclear submarines have power plants that can each generate enough power - continuously - for a city the size of Southampton which has c.250K population. They are clearly not a radiation hazard to the crew living within a few feet of them and are made by Rolls Royce so not much research needed except EU rules might prevent them being bought without letting the frogs have a go.

Mar 22, 2016 at 12:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhilhippos

RXC?

Mar 22, 2016 at 12:39 PM | Unregistered Commenterjferguson

'DECC are the last people on earth to....'

Whether they are on earth is open to question.

Mar 22, 2016 at 12:48 PM | Unregistered Commenteroldbrew

I believe that you can buy these items already 'off-the-shelf', or with a short lead time. Why don't we buy 2 or 3 different types, and put them in the ground in a convenient spot on the Hinkley C site?

They would take up very little room - all the transport facilities and environmental agreements are already in place, and there is even a Grid supply line waiting for energy.

Oh, I forgot - if we did that it would demonstrate that the proposed Hinkley C station is a complete and expensive white elephant....

Mar 22, 2016 at 12:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

"one of the world’s first small modular reactors"

Unless it really is the first, there's not much call for a competition, is there? They just need a shopping list.

A competition for a name would be good, though.. :-)

Mar 22, 2016 at 1:04 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

Em guys remember DECC are just the monkeys.
They couldn't stop Organ Grinder Cameron cutting down the onshore wind ..and solar subsidies could they.
..Not that there should have been any in the first place.

Mar 22, 2016 at 1:13 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

This is probably good news.

The reason for SMRs is to get around regulatory hurdles: If SMR designs can get 'type approval' the theory is that large power stations can be assembled rapidly and cheaply from pre approved mass produced 'modules'

DECC itself is schizophrenic,: Its public face is 'green' - witness the stupid statements made by its top brass, but behind the scenes there is a tacit acceptance that to meet carbon limits, nuclear in large quantities is necessary as renewables won't do the real job.

Putting those two together, with a third point, that so much has government interfered in power generation that frankly no power stations of any sort get built without political support and financial assistance, it is perfectly reasonable that DECC should be looking at a series of cost effective designs to support.

Whether this is good for the public in absolute terms, or not, is somewhat of another issue : DECC have to work within the political constraints they are lumbered with.

Mar 22, 2016 at 1:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterLeo Smith

Rolls Royce offered this solution about a week ago so it took a week to decide (be told by the EU) to run a competition. Most navies do not have nuclear submarines and some that do have them have disastrous histories, Only Rolls Roycs and the yanks would be able to offer technology that works, for which the costs are known and which can start tomorrow (a.m.).
I guess the competition should take years then.
Could the National Grid cope with these things?

Mar 22, 2016 at 1:52 PM | Registered CommenterDung

The next announcement will follow the previous announcement. Good work.

Are they supporting energy, climate change, or none?

Mar 22, 2016 at 2:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterCurious George

Not exactly tomorrow Dung - in 10 years according to the horses mouth...
Paul Stein, Rolls’s director of research and technology, said: “Traditional plants are bespoke projects and aren’t getting cheaper. SMRs could be made in factories and assembled on site, speeding up work. I’d be disappointed if using SMRs we couldn’t generate power at least a fifth cheaper.” Rolls has submitted detailed designs to the Government for SMRs capable of generating 220 MW, that could be doubled up to 440 megawatts on plants covering 10 football fields, a 10th of the size of a traditional nuclear power station. Mr Stein added that with financial backing from government to seed development and political and regulatory support, the company could have the first SMR generating power in 10 years for £1.25bn. Costs would fall as more were produced.

Mar 22, 2016 at 3:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

@Dung

...Could the National Grid cope with these things?....

That is an interesting and very sensible question! In particular, it is a question which did not get asked when renewable power was proposed...

Th Grid is set up at the moment to distribute power to all parts of the country, and to accept power from a comparatively few generating facilities, spread evenly across the regions to minimise I2R losses in transmission. Thus there are a few heavy capacity major transmission lines coming from each station, branching out and getting thinner as the power is delivered to individual homes.

Renewable power (which now looks as if it will never be established) would have required a whole set of new high-capacity lines from completely new installation positions, and upgraded cross-country links to feed power from one place to another when the wind wasn't blowing to requirements. The cost of this would be huge.

The SMRs, on the other hand, can easily be installed where current generating stations are, and can make use of all existing infrastructure. Win-Win...

Mar 22, 2016 at 3:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

Jamesp: Nukey McNuke??

Dung: National grid will love them if they can ramp power levels reasonably quickly. Sadly, I think you could be right about the timescale, especially once Greenpiss have got stuck in.

Mar 22, 2016 at 3:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Davis

This looks like maybe Rolls Royce and NuScale are building towards a partnership for RR to build the NuScale reactor modules in the UK for domestic use and export to the rest of the EU. They (Nuscale) seem to be leading the race in the US to get their SMR licensed and they plan to have their first plant open in the US in 2024. They even put out a press release about entering their design in the competition. http://newsroom.nuscalepower.com/press-release/nuscale-put-best-value-smr-ring

Mar 22, 2016 at 3:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan

The words camel and committee come to mind.

Mar 22, 2016 at 3:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike SIngleton

With all the information above, what apart from SamCam prevents the UK from building 3 or 4 large, efficient, cheap and reliable coal fired power stations to provided base load until we can get small form nuclear up and running? Alternatively amend the Climate Change Act so that CCGT plants can make a profit (this might also give a much needed boost to shale gas).

Mar 22, 2016 at 3:39 PM | Registered CommenterDung

This is a favorite ploy of people who themselves don't have a clue.

Instead of frankly saying 'we just don't know' .
they run a competition to find out if someone out there does.

If they find something of substance they can then act as 'expert judges' and award contract to winner.

Mar 22, 2016 at 3:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterBryan

"The words camel and committee come to mind."

Nah, piss-up, brewery and whelk stall apply. To (accidentally) specify a camel requires some understanding of arrangement and function of parts: not their strongest suit as demonstrated so far.

Mar 22, 2016 at 4:03 PM | Unregistered Commenterssat

Tomo@10.57

You do remember what killed everyone on Golgafrincham, don't you...

Mar 22, 2016 at 4:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterOliver Morton

how to procure stuff like that?

Mar 22, 2016 at 4:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterRahul Rana

ssat: You brought back to mind the old swing cartoons of many years ago and of which there were many versions.
The Project Management Tree Swing Cartoon

Mar 22, 2016 at 4:58 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

That's a great version, Phillip - I particularly like the delivery section. Seems apposite!

Mar 22, 2016 at 5:18 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

Hmm. We have a British manufacturer with an international reputation that has them on the shelf. We will therefore end up with an undeveloped French or Chinese version that is initially £500 cheaper but ultimately £1bn more expensive and ten years late...

Mar 22, 2016 at 5:23 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

"A competition for a name would be good, though.. :-)" --jamesp

Since it's a reactor, should have an "R" in it somewhere. And as the first of it's kind, perhaps "101." Yes, I'd go with Her Magesty's Reactor R-101.

I agree with Leo Smith.

This sounds more of a positive step than a negative one.

Mar 22, 2016 at 5:45 PM | Unregistered Commentertimg56

Tomo and respect to Douglas Adams,

As DECC are demonstrably clueless, with a clear mission statement to render reliable power generation impossible, DECC can offer only one possible contribution, to choose what colour it should be. This decision is unlikely to be required for 5 years, but DECC may struggle with a timescale that tight.

Mar 22, 2016 at 6:22 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

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