16 Jun (NucNet): Small and medium-sized nuclear reactors (SMRs) could be a way forward for the European nuclear industry because they are easier to manage, finance, get regulatory approval for, and even public support, a conference in the Netherlands heard.
Delegates at the Power Gen Europe Conference in Amsterdam heard during a panel discussion on nuclear energy in Europe that it is also easier to integrate SMRs into the grid.
Panel members said the cost of Generation II, III and III+ reactors is becoming more and more uncompetitive, while regulatory hurdles were playing a major role in either promoting or obstructing the building of new plants.
They said the current position of the nuclear sector in the EU is “challenging”. The Olkiluoto-3 project in Finland and the Flamanville-3 project in France are both behind schedule and affecting the sector’s credibility when it comes to the delivery of new build, both in the eyes of the public and politicians.
Malcolm Grimston, senior research fellow at Imperial College London, said the industry spends too much time focusing on safety and public perception. More communication needs to be done towards a general public that is “losing trust in the sector”, Mr Grimston said.
Many of the panelists called for the harmonisation and standardisation of the regulatory environment to promote building of new plants at European or even global level. They said the EU has an important role to play in creating this environment.
More attention needs to be paid towards existing plants by extending their life cycles, cleaning up waste and improving safety, panelists said. New build faces significant challenges and Europe needs to start learning from countries where nuclear development is continuing.
Europe remains “very divided” in terms of support for nuclear. In the Czech Republic, France and Slovakia overproduction of electricity is a potential problem, while in Germany and Belgium there is opposition to nuclear. In Eastern Europe it is mostly governments that drive the decisions.
The main challenge for the sector remains attracting investment while also remaining “politically credible”, panelists said.