IMechE calls for post-Brexit focus on small modular reactors

A report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers claims that the commercialisation of SMR’s could resurrect the UK’s civil nuclear programme

The UK should focus on developing Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) to secure the country’s future nuclear industry post-Brexit according to a new report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

The ‘Leaving the EU, the Euratom Treaty Part 2: A Framework for the Future’ report – which outlines a number of possible pathways the UK government could take to leaving the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) – argues that SMRs could present the UK with key export opportunities and return the country to the international nuclear reactor supply arena.

The Institution is also calling for the UK to develop its own Safeguarding Office, to ensure the country conforms to international rules on safety and non-proliferation, but says the UK should remain an associate member of Euratom for the specific purpose of R&D.

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Dr Jenifer Baxter, Head of Energy and Environment and lead author of the report, said: The UK’s departure from the EU and Euratom is likely to be complicated and difficult, but it also presents the country with an opportunity to reshape its nuclear industry and once again become a world-leading innovator in nuclear technology. Political parties need to outline their vision for the future of the UK nuclear industry as part of their manifestos.

“In the 1950s the UK was the first country to develop a civil nuclear programme, but we have since fallen behind countries such as China, France and Canada. Pushing ahead on the demonstration and commercialisation of SMRs would be a key way for the UK to once again become a world leader in the field. This would not only help to meet future energy demand, but also to develop skills, local employment and build future export business”

The report makes four key recommendations

  • That the UK government adopts the framework approach to safeguarding, Nuclear Co-operation Agreements, Research & Development (R&D) and regulation for the nuclear industry, replacing mechanisms lost as a result of the UK’s departure from Euratom
  • That the UK works towards developing a new nuclear Safeguards regime, through the development of a UK Safeguarding Office.
  • That the UK government remains an associate member of Euratom for the specific purpose of research & development activities in the nuclear sector. 
  • That the UK government should include within the UK’s nuclear sector strategy a long term commitment to nuclear R&D programmes including, a pathway for developing Small Modular Reactors (SMRs).