Letter sent to the Western Mail, Wales' national newspaper:
I was extremely concerned to read that Rolls Royce (RR), who lead a consortium wanting to use Wales a guinea pig nation for its experimental Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) told your chief reporter, Martin Shipton, that they would pose no security problems. (“Nuclear consultant’s fears over new power plants plan,” Western Mail, 26 February 2020)
This is dangerously misleading in several ways both by commission and omission.
In a very detailed 70-page paper I presented at the annual very pro-nuclear European Nuclear Energy Forum (ENEF) in Bratislava in Slovakia in June 2018, I set out the specific security vulnerabilities of SMRs.
The participants from several countries wishing to develop SMRs and backed by several prospective vendors of SMRs took on board my concerns
Indeed, despite the strong nuclear-supportive leanings of ENEF, its final declaration included the following statement recording that the Forum:
“Highlights that larger scale introduction of small modular reactors introduces new questions, including the increased risks for malevolent attack when reactors are more widely geographically spread, and increased risks for nuclear proliferation, ” and added ” Safety and security specificities related to several units operated simultaneously in the same plant should be carefully analysed.” (https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/2018_10_01_enef2018conclusionsfinal.pdf)
In light of such international caution on SMR, I am worried that senior Welsh politicians – especially from the otherwise nuclear-sceptic Plaid Cymru - such as its current Parliamentary leader, Liz Saville Roberts, and former leader, Lord Wigley, are still uncritically cheerleading for SMRs.
Last Monday (24 February Dafydd Wigley asked the business and energy minister in the Lords:” “Did the answer that she gave on the involvement of nuclear power stations in 2035 assume that no SMRs will be active by that time? Is that the Government’s policy and, if not, when will the SMRs come on stream?”
Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist replied: “The Government’s policy is firmly to encourage the development of SMRs in a number of sites, including—the noble Lord’s own passion—Trawsfynydd ( and in Cumbra) He will have seen the announcement that Rolls-Royce is looking at both sites. We are still investing a lot of R&D money in consortiums that aim to provide small nuclear reactors that contribute to the national grid, although my original Answer did not include the contribution that they could make.”
She belatedly added: “However, safety and security are of paramount importance to the UK Government, and any investments in the UK energy market are subject to a thorough national security review.” (https://hansard.parliament.uk/lords/2020-02-24/debates/C2376C18-05F5-448D-BDD1-1D1B79FCE173/NuclearPowerStations)
Why is RR so dismissive of the very real – and possibly unresolvable- security risks for Wales of proposed SMRs, when it is clear even others who are pro-SMRs, such as the UK Government and SMR lobbyists within the EU, accept there are serious security questions to be addressed?
AS someone born and raised in Neath, I do not want my home nation despoiled by reckless dispersion of these highly contentious reactors.
Nuclear consultant’s fears over new power plants plan
Western Mail, 26 February 2020
A NUCLEAR consultant who has sat on a UK Government forum on the disposal of radioactive waste has raised security concerns about a new generation of power stations planned for Wales and the rest of the UK. Dr David Lowry, who in the past has advised former Labour MPs Paul Flynn and Llew Smith and is currently a senior international research fellow with the Institute for Resource and Security Studies in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said there was a need for total transparency about the proposed small modular reactors (SMRs) proposed by a consortium led by Rolls-Royce.
Two sites in Wales – at the former nuclear power sites of Wylfa, Anglesey, and Trawsfynydd, Gwynedd – are among those being considered. According to the consortium, they would pose no security problems.
But Dr Lowry, who has spoken of his concerns about SMRs at international academic conferences, said: “SMRs provide unique targets for terrorists to disrupt power supplies and destabilise the local community. “Why so? Because the salespeople
for SMRs like to show images of sleek shiny plants with no or virtually no site protection against malevolent ‘bad guys’. “Anyone with a shoulder-held grenade launcher could fire a devastating high-energy deep-penetrator projectile into the heart of the reactor from just yards away. Astonishing, but true.”
Dr Lowry said it was important that communities close to the proposed sites, and those who represent them, asked detailed and tough questions of the consortium.
“As a result of a change in the planning process a few years ago, there is no longer the requirement for a full public inquiry.
“But that should not stop local communities and their representatives demanding full explanations about how the plants will be made wholly secure. “A five- or six-feet-high wire fence is simply not good enough.”
A spokesman for the RollsRoyce-led consortium, said: “Our power station will incorporate protective measures against all of the current and future potential security risks laid out by the UK’s authorities.
“These measures will then have to be evaluated and approved by the UK nuclear regulator, on behalf of the public, for our consortium to be allowed to proceed to construction.”
The consortium is expecting to receive around £220m in public subsidy if the project goes ahead. Altogether, it estimates that 46,000 jobs will be created, although it is unable at this stage to say how many would be in Wales. The power stations would, if the planning process goes ahead without hitches, start to come on stream from 2029.
All the SMRs – which are significantly smaller than conventional nuclear power stations – would be built on sites where there have previously been nuclear installations. They would have a lifespan of 60 years and waste would be stored on
site for as long as the power stations were operating. Afterwards, the waste would be stored in Britain’s as yet unconstructed waste repository.