Vulcan Naval Reactor Test Establishment

Defence written statement – made on 2 November 2011.

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Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

The then Secretary of State for Defence, my right hon. Friend Dr Fox, announced on 18 May 2011, Hansard, column 351, that a submarine design, powered by a new generation of nuclear propulsion system, the Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR) 3, had been selected and the Initial Gate investment approved.

Historically the Ministry of Defence has operated an onshore nuclear submarine reactor prototype at the Vulcan Naval Reactor Test Establishment (NRTE) site in Caithness, in support of in-service nuclear submarines and the development of new reactor core designs. Confidence in the technology is such that it is not now necessary to undertake reactor core prototyping activities; instead the PWR 3 reactor core design will be supported through an extensive test and validation programme using computational modelling, analogy from current reactor designs and testing of individual components and systems.

The Vulcan NRTE site will therefore not be required to support reactor core prototyping activity when the current series of PWR2 reactor core prototype tests are complete in 2015. Options for the future of the site are currently being assessed; these range from placing the prototype facilities into care and maintenance while retaining the site’s strategic capabilities, to decommissioning the site and returning it to Nuclear Decommissioning Authority ownership.

We will work closely with the Department for Energy and Climate Change, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and the Scottish Government during this process.