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Stone looking for 'a fruitful discussion' with Rolls-Royce over Caithness nuclear reactor plea

By Gordon Calder

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FAR north MP, Jamie Stone, is looking forward to "a fruitful discussion" with Rolls-Royce after it agreed to discuss his call for a new type of nuclear reactor to be built in Caithness.

The Liberal Democrat MP – supported by local enterprise and trade union representatives – wants the company to include the county as a possible location for a small modular reactor (SMR) which would be around one-tenth of the size of a conventional one and is said to be more economic to produce and easier to build.

Jamie Stone wants a small modular reactor – similar to this one – to be built in Caithness
Jamie Stone wants a small modular reactor – similar to this one – to be built in Caithness

After the engineering giant agreed to discuss the issue, the Caithness, Sutherland and easter Ross MP, said: "It is excellent that Rolls-Royce are willing to meet with me to discuss the potential for a small modular reactor in Caithness, and I look forward to a fruitful discussion."

Rolls-Royce director of corporate and government affairs, SMR, Alastair Evans, said: "We welcome the opportunity to speak to Jamie Stone MP and all communities that see the significant benefits that small modular reactors can bring to local communities and to the UK achieving its challenging net zero trajectory."

He added: "Rolls-Royce SMR has been established to provide clean, affordable energy for all. It offers a low cost, deliverable, global and investable proposition and an opportunity to help countries meet their net zero targets."

Thurso and northwest Caithness Highland councillor, Struan Mackie, who chairs the Dounreay Stakeholder Group, said: " It is my belief that there is no better place to deploy SMR technology for commercial energy generation than Caithness and the opportunity must be seized now before our world-leading knowledge and skills are lost.

The Highland Council remains the only local authority in the country that has explicitly supported the development of SMR technology as a council policy."

He added: "Much of Rolls Royce' modular proposals are based on the decades of work conducted at the Vulcan site, where reactor technology was prototyped and tested as an integral part of the MoD's Submarine Delivery Agency. It would be a travesty to see this knowledge and experience lost to the far north and other areas around the UK benefit from the groundwork made possible by workers in Caithness and north Sutherland... particularly when it is clear that a vast majority of workers in the area would seek to remain in the nuclear industry.

"History would tell us that we are facing an uphill battle to make this case, but I believe our attempts to secure the UKAEA STEP fusion reactor represented a turning point. The Caithness and North Sutherland Regeneration Partnership demonstrated that we can develop cross-community support for projects within the nuclear industry that show clear support of the community, industry and local politicians. That is why we must continue to press the Scottish Government to change their outdated and blinkered policy on nuclear and acknowledge that some nuclear communities in Scotland wish to retain their nuclear industries."

As reported last week, Rolls-Royce SMR Limited has secured £490 million through commercial equity and UK Research and Innovation grant funding.

The company hopes to complete its first reactor in the early 2030s and build up to 10 by 2035. The SMRs are said to have a power capacity of 470 megawatts, which it is claimed could power up to one million homes.

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