//New public dialogue on Modular Nuclear Technologies suggests public has more concerns than hopes about nuclear technology

New public dialogue on Modular Nuclear Technologies suggests public has more concerns than hopes about nuclear technology

The term Modular Nuclear Technologies (MNT) encompasses the next generation of nuclear technologies: Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) and Advanced Modular Reactors (AMRs). In the 2020 Energy White Paper: Powering our Net Zero Future, the UK Government confirmed that a range of technologies will be required to support the UK in achieving net zero by 2050. A low-cost, reliable and net zero consistent energy system is likely to be composed predominantly of renewables, complemented by technologies like nuclear, that provide power when the wind is not blowing, or the sun does not shine.

With this in mind, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and partners, commissioned a public dialogue to explore perceptions on the future siting and deployment of MNT, including the role for MNT in achieving net zero and potential “beyond-grid” uses e.g. hydrogen production or heat for industrial processes.

Officials in BEIS were keen to engage with members of the public on MNT at this early stage of policy development, in line with the Sciencewise Guiding Principles. BEIS partnered up with the Welsh Government, National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL), the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), the Environment Agency (EA), the Nuclear Innovation and Research Office (NIRO) and Natural Resource Wales (NRW) to ensure that the dialogue had maximum impact and informed as many interested parties as possible.

Over 70 participants recruited from three locations across the UK joined six online workshops. These locations selected were chosen to represent a community within the region of existing or previous nuclear activity, existing industrial activity and one with no prominent nuclear or heavy industrial activity.

Participants generally had greater, more varied concerns for the development and use of modular nuclear technologies than they did hopes. Key concerns were nuclear waste storage and management, health and safety, environmental impacts, and the transparency and fairness of decision-making; while hopes centred around the reduced carbon emissions, job opportunities, and the reliability of nuclear energy.

Overall, the number of participants who were willing to consider the deployment of advanced nuclear technologies to support reaching net zero by 2050 targets increased throughout the events. However, this support was caveated with numerous and nuanced conditions, which can be grouped into five key themes:

  • A robust need case for MNT must be proven.
  • Renewable energy should be central to achieving net zero.
  • Health and safety must be prioritised.
  • Nuclear should not present long-term risks or leave a negative legacy.
  • Robust and independent regulation is key.

The number of participants (71) and deliberative approach, mean that these findings should be considered illustrative, and are not statistically representative of public views.

To read the full dialogue engagement report click here.

For further information on the public dialogue, please contact:

[email protected]

[email protected]