Make South Yorkshire a centre of excellence for nuclear technology manufacture, Jacob-Rees Mogg urged

The Government is in talks with a consortium about ambitious plans for South Yorkshire to become a national centre of excellence for supplying the UK’s nuclear technology industry.

Proposals for Sheffield to become a manufacturing hub for components of small modular reactors have been raised with new Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg following initial meetings with other Government ministers and officials earlier this year.

Former Government minister and Sheffield MP Richard Caborn has written to Mr Rees-Mogg on behalf of the Sheffield Small Modular Nuclear Reactor Consortium to highlight specific proposals for what is being called ‘Project Quasar’, as well as more ambitious long-term goals for the region.

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Documents submitted by the consortium to Government state that Sheffield Forgemasters – which was nationalised last year – would have a key role in the manufacturing process with the former Davy Markham works site being brought back into use as a location for assembling SMR modules and deliver the final products for transportation.

It is hoped Sheffield Forgemasters can play a key role in building components for small modular reactors. Picture by Simon HulmeIt is hoped Sheffield Forgemasters can play a key role in building components for small modular reactors. Picture by Simon Hulme
It is hoped Sheffield Forgemasters can play a key role in building components for small modular reactors. Picture by Simon Hulme

Earlier this month, it was announced that Forgemasters had agreed to work with GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy in support of the potential deployment of the BWRX-300 small modular reactor. It is this design which is at the heart of the consortium’s initial proposal.

Developers hope the £6bn SMR could be up and running by the end of this decade, with the preferred option for it being based at Hitachi’s Wylfa site in Angelsey where the company had previous plans for a nuclear power station.

The consortium want the Government to order an independent project review to prove the viability of the scheme. The technology has already been approved by regulators in Ontario, Canada.

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Mr Caborn’s letter to Mr Rees-Mogg also included local Labour MP Clive Betts and Conservative Miriam Cates, who he said were both “very supportive” of the plan.

He said this scheme could be just the start of South Yorkshire becoming a wider supplier to the SMR industry.

“This developer-backed end to end proposal to build the first of a kind fully-funded British Built SMR, to produce 1 GW of power by 2030 just needs yours and your Government’s approval for it to go ahead.

“The impact of such a decision would not only deliver the first operational SMR in the UK by 2030 but it would also open up the opportunity for Sheffield and South Yorkshire to develop its very unique capability to deliver an International Centre for SMR Manufacturing Excellence, capable of producing any SMR design.

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“The unique capability of Sheffield to produced SMRs is first, Forgemasters the only company in the UK that can produce the forgings and as the machining capability for all the required parts of any SMR.

“This capability along with the countries only Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre in South Yorkshire and strong supply chain built up over years, makes it not only unique in this country but possibly unrivalled in the world.

“We really can bring an engineering solution to this energy problem.”

Mr Caborn said the scheme would safeguard existing jobs in Sheffield and potentially create hundreds of new highly-skilled roles in South Yorkshire in future.

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A Government spokesperson said: “The government has had constructive meetings with the Sheffield Consortium and welcome their interest in using South Yorkshire’s industrial expertise and heritage to manufacture Small Modular Reactors.”