Recently, it was announced that Rolls-Royce secured funding to develop small-scale nuclear reactors in the UK. The British manufacturing thoroughbred announced backing from a consortium of investors to fund for Small Modular Reactors (SMRs). After the UK government committed 210 million pounds of funding, the private sector is believed to have matched that total.
While SMRs are smaller than the major nuclear plants, they could play a major role in the UK’s future energy mix.
Britain remains in broad in an energy crisis and for all the COP26 posturing and virtue signaling about carbon free future, the country is still heavily dependent on fossil fuels.
In early November, the UK government asked the gulf state of Qatar to become their gas supplier of last resort amid shortages of the fuel across Europe which have sparked record wholesale gas prices and soaring household bills. Even amidst the Glasgow summit, the western world has kept pressuring OPEC oil exporters cartel to pump yet more crude once again to ease an energy crunch which has seen inflation soar on both sides of the Atlantic.
The UK still relies on gas for around 40% of their electricity production. Renewables such as wind, biomass, hydro, and solar also account for about 40% between them with coal barely featuring in electricity production. Much of the rest around 15% to 20% comes from atomic energy or nuclear.
Environmental purists shun nuclear energy, but there’s an increasing recognition. The industry’s hugely improved safety record means nuclear could make a major contribution to decarbonization as it were filling the renewables gap when the wind doesn’t blow.
France relies on nuclear for around 70% of its electricity generation and the European commission is now considering granting atomic power the green status even though Germany has sought to decommission nuclear after the 2011 earthquake that threatened Japan’s Fukushima nuclear station.
Until now, nukes have been excluded from the EU’s green deal because while nuclear stations emit no CO2, the long-term ecological implications of storing spent fuel remains unclear. Yet, the development and manufacturing of small-scale modular reactors, those SMRs by Rolls-Royce could reorient and reboot not just the UK’s atomic energy complex but the nuclear power industry world-wide .
On top of that, while we need to find safer ways to store the radioactive waste resulting from nuclear fission (that is splitting Uranium atoms), let us not ignore nuclear fusion. The UK atomic energy authority is at the cutting edge of nuclear fusion research that generates non of the toxic waste of traditional nuclear generation.
Despite the hype of COP26, the fact remains that coal, oil, and gas are pollutants and will ultimately run out causing huge international conflict as they do.