January 28, 2023

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Still nuclear power in the Netherlands, with smaller power plants?

Still nuclear power in the Netherlands, with smaller power plants?

Rolls-Royce

  • Yuri Vogts

    Nieuwsuur Editor

  • Yuri Vogts

    Nieuwsuur Editor

Forced by the current energy crisis Nuclear power is once again open to debate in many countries. Nuclear power plants in Japan turn againGermany postpones the closure of some power stations straight ahead Belgium has also planned closures to retreat. In the Netherlands, the cabinet is open for new power plants, and a decision will be made on that this fall.

At the Rolls-Royce plant in Sheffield, England, they embrace Dutch nuclear ambitions. The manufacturer, known mainly for aircraft and automobile engines, enters the market for nuclear power plants. These are called Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), and they are a different type of nuclear power plant than those at Borselle in Zeeland.

construction kit

SMRs are factory-made plants. Unlike conventional nuclear power plants, it is a type of construction tool that is installed together on site, just like a prefab house. They are smaller and generally have less power than large nuclear power plants. It requires less cooling water, and therefore it is not limited to placement on the coast.

It now takes many years and billions of euros to build a nuclear power plant per plant. The idea behind SMR is that it can be rolled off the production line as a serial product and is therefore cheaper. Rolls-Royce states that the construction period ranges from five to seven years. The cost of the first copy is 2.5 billion euros, but after that the costs were supposed to drop to 2 billion per plant.

Still from a promotional movie

Putting parts of SMR together on conveyor belts, that’s the plan

Dozens of companies around the world are developing SMRs. China is currently building the first commercial alternative. Russia already has an SMR in use. Other developing countries are not far away.

Dutch company ULC Energy has entered into a contract with Rolls-Royce and wants to bring ten of these small power plants to the Netherlands. “We want to get rid of gas dependence,” says ULC Director and Nuclear Energy Lobby Member, Dirk Rabelinck. “We think nuclear power can take off.”

teething diseases

The anti-nuclear movement thinks it won’t get that far. Rolls-Royce hasn’t made one before, and we contemptuously call it “nothing.” nuclear power plants‘ but ‘nuclear power plants‘” says Gerard Brinkmann of WISE The Netherlands.

“It is not realistic to build quickly in the Netherlands. The one who builds first is always the worst. Cost transfers are coming and teething problems must be resolved.”

This critique can count on the support of Andre Fayeg, Professor of Energy Systems Analysis. “This is really a different situation than buying an existing reactor in France. The promise that it could be cheaper is great. If Rolls-Royce is sure they will make this plant with a dozen reactors, you can see the production chain. But that is not yet.”

Nuclear power plants are running too late to meet energy goals in 2030. The researchers note that only in the long term can they be beneficial in the energy mix.

Minister Rob Jetten (Climate and Energy) announced last week that SMRs could be used in multiple applications, such as producing electricity and hydrogen. But at the moment, the minister also acknowledges that this is not currently possible, in part because there are no suitable sites yet and there must also be social support for them.

The meter wheel of the Netherlands

At the moment, there appears to be support only in Borselli in Zeeland. The only Dutch nuclear power plant currently operating is located there. “We’ve been living next door to a nuclear power plant for 50 years. We’re used to it. And in that sense, we know what it is,” says Mayor Gerbine Dexterhuis.

He would not be surprised if in the near future the Cabinet submitted a request to install new power plants in his municipality. And the people in Purcelli are not particularly negative. Even after the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan in 2011, the Zeelands continued to take a sober look at the reactor in their environment. Dijksterhuis: “We see ourselves as the meter cupboard in Holland. If something has to be added to the meter cupboard, it has to fit, so that there is no short circuit.”

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