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Gloucestershire Business News

Berkeley nuclear talks progressing

By Ian Mean, Business West Gloucestershire director 

Confidential talks are now moving at pace to site some of the first new nuclear Small Modular Reactors, or SMRs, to Gloucestershire. Rolls Royce SMR is in a strong position to develop this new technology.

South Gloucestershire and Stroud (SGS) College is at the centre of the development, as it progresses the sale of its Gloucestershire Business and Science Park at Berkeley Green to the Chiltern Vital Group (CVG).

Chiltern is leading negotiations, which are in the final stage of due diligence, for the 38-acre site at Berkeley for a sale figure of up to £10 million.

The government-backed Great British Nuclear (GBN) organisation has bought the Oldbury site from Hitachi for £160 million.

I believe that the Oldbury/ Berkeley sites could house several SMRs, if required.

The purchase of Oldbury indicates SMRs will be coming to Gloucestershire and this will herald the start of an exciting new chapter in Gloucestershire's heritage of nuclear energy.

It will of course need specialist training facilities, possibly at Berkeley, to allow SGS College and the University of Bristol to meet the skills training demand for the construction of, and ultimately, the operation of the new SMRs.

Kevin Hamblin, CEO of SGS, said: "The future is very exciting for Gloucestershire, as not only will the site develop the next generation of nuclear reactors, it will be the centre of the training of staff, who will work on the building and operation of the technology."

SGS will be the primary provider training for the workforce to build and operate these SMRs. The college will retain a presence at Berkeley Green, where hundreds of young students already study engineering and digital.

Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting the boss of Industria EU, the Polish development agency, who visited Berkeley to discuss how our local expertise can train the next generation of nuclear technicians.

The Polish government has now given the go-ahead for applications to build, own and operate the first two Rolls-Royce SMRs in Poland.

We now need the next British government to step up and ensure that the SMR programme is delivered. We will wait to see if Rolls-Royce officially beats the national competition to develop the SMRs in the UK.

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