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“Market ready technology” – in 15 years’ time

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The government gave a boost to the nuclear sector this summer when it revealed plans to invest up to £18m in the creation of the “mini nuclear power stations.” These would be the first such entities in the world. 

A consortium led by Rolls-Royce is proposing to try to build prototype “small modular reactors,” known as SMRs. This initial money will allow Rolls-Royce to develop the design of the reactor, which it predicts “may” be available during the 2030s at the earliest.

Why are these being pushed by Rolls-Royce, best known as the constructor of nuclear propulsion reactors for submarines? In the company’s own words, this is because “the expansion of a nuclear-capable skilled workforce through a civil nuclear UK SMR programme would relieve the Ministry of Defence of the burden of developing and retaining skills and capability.”

On 13 September, the Prime Minister is due to give his blessing to what he will describe as a potential £500 million investment programme as part of the Northern Powerhouse initiative. We know this because of a breathless interview afforded headlines by the Sunday Times by one Henri Murison, who has been the director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership since April 2017. His chairman is, curiously, the editor of the London Evening Standard, George Osborne.

Murison came from working as a manager for the Yorkshire Building Society. Brimming with enthusiasm, he painted a picture of “market ready technology available globally.” Sadly, he did not specify quite where this technology could be found. 

But he was confident this “market ready technology” could “be put together with the UK supply chain, with us having what is needed to build them here in the Northern Powerhouse, alongside investing in a large factory which this support will help us to achieve.”

Murison appears to have absolutely no background in electricity issues. Otherwise, he would surely never have so seriously misled the Sunday Times regarding likely timetables. Perhaps his chairman could explain to him that the difference between R&D and “market ready technology” is the same in Yorkshire as it is in London?


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