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Small-scale Modular Nuclear Reactors

Volume 670: debated on Tuesday 21 January 2020

7. What steps the Government are taking to support the provision of small-scale modular nuclear reactors. (900280)

It is delightful to see you in your place, Mr Speaker; this is the first opportunity I have had to congratulate you.

Small modular reactors have significant potential to reduce our carbon emissions, and help to achieve net zero by using advanced manufacturing techniques to unlock what is referred to as “fleet economics” and drive down costs in nuclear.

It is clearly very good news that Rolls-Royce, a world-renowned company, has taken up the challenge of developing small modular nuclear reactors for clean energy not only for the UK, but for export across the world. What assessment has my hon. Friend made of the opportunity for new jobs in the UK and for exports across the world?

The Rolls-Royce consortium has proposed a significant public-private joint innovation programme worth more than £500 million to design a first-of-its-kind SMR. The consortium expects a working model to be up and running in the early 2030s, that the SMR programme would create high-value export opportunities and, at its peak, 40,000 jobs, and that each SMR would be capable of producing enough clean electricity to power 750,000 homes.

In the last Parliament, the Defence Committee and Science and Technology Committee received evidence clearly indicating that there are threats from unmanned aerial vehicles in relation to nuclear reactors. If the Minister supports these small-scale nuclear reactors, will he advise the House on what discussions his Department is having with the Ministry of Defence about their impact on the security of national infrastructure?

I am grateful for the hon. Member’s pertinent question. He is absolutely right; we do have discussions with the Ministry of Defence. The Minister for Business, Energy and Clean Growth and I are visiting Hinkley Point tomorrow, but the hon. Member raises an important issue that the nuclear constabulary is taking very seriously.