The UK government has opened the next phase of the small modular reactor competition managed by Great British Nuclear, and announced a string of investments to bring small and advanced nuclear reactors closer to market.
Originally announced in the Energy Security Strategy in April 2022, Great British Nuclear (GBN) is a government-funded arm’s-length body to drive delivery of new nuclear projects.
Companies can now register their interest with GBN to participate in the small modular reactor (SMR) competition to secure funding for product development. First announced in March, the SMR competition aims to enable billions of pounds of investment in SMR projects in the UK.
GBN will select up to four SMR technologies which meet its criteria in the autumn, then enter into detailed discussions with the successful companies with the aim of helping one or more reach a final investment decision on a UK new build project by 2029. Support will include funding for technology development and site-specific design, as well as help in accessing sites.
For full details of the SMR competition, see the SMR technology partner tender notice.
Andrew Storer, CEO of the Nuclear AMRC, comments: “I am pleased to see progress towards new reactor development in the UK. A clear plan to deliver small modular reactors will give business the confidence to invest in the sector, and help us build a clean and secure energy supply for the future. However, we still need to be clear how we will deliver our national target for 24GW of nuclear power by 2050.
“We need to be working at a pace like we adopted during the pandemic to deliver vaccinations and ventilators. To deliver low-carbon power and ensure that Britain secures the huge economic opportunity here and overseas, we must invest in the supply chain to build manufacturing capability and capacity. I am disappointed this is not included in the funding announced today, but will continue to work hard with my team to continue our hugely beneficial Fit For Nuclear programme, and look to the government and GBN team to ensure further much-needed investment is brought forward as soon as possible.
“We also urgently need to develop the skilled workforce we need to build and operate new nuclear plant, and accelerate project delivery. It’s vital that we work as one sector to look at capacity and investment across the whole nuclear industry, including decommissioning, defence and fusion. We must work much more efficiently than we have in the past, sharing resources, facilities and expertise across the industry, and embracing innovation to solve the skills challenge.”
The government says it remains committed to gigawatt-scale projects including Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C, and will work with GBN to consider the potential role of further large nuclear power plants in the UK energy mix.
“Building on the work done at Hinkley Point and Sizewell, today’s announcement of the start of the SMR selection process signifies a real step forward in delivering the scale of nuclear power that Britain needs for secure, sustainable energy future,” said Simon Bowen, interim chair of GBN.
“We look forward to working with all interested parties – technology vendors, the supply chain, the wider industry and local communities – as we move this essential programme forward.”
The government also confirmed up to £77.1 million of funding from the Future Nuclear Enabling Fund to support the development of advanced reactor designs. Two companies have been shortlisted for a full award, and one for partial funding – the companies have not yet been named.
As part of the ongoing advanced modular reactor (AMR) research, development and demonstration programme, the government will invest up to £58 million in three projects:
- Up to £22.5 million to Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation UK and Jacobs to develop the design of a high-temperature micro modular reactor, for industrial applications including hydrogen and sustainable aviation fuel production.
- Up to £15 million to NNL to accelerate the design of a high-temperature reactor, based on a Japanese design.
- Up to £16 million to NNL to develop coated particle fuel capabilities for high-temperature reactors
A further £22.3 million from the new Nuclear Fuel Fund will support eight projects to develop new fuel production and manufacturing capabilities in the UK. Winning projects include:
- Over £10.5 million to Westinghouse Springfields to manufacture more innovative fuels for customers in the UK and overseas.
- Over £9.5 million to Urenco UK to enrich uranium to higher levels.
- Over £1 million to Nuclear Transport Solutions to develop a new transport package for high assay low enriched uranium fuels.
- Over £1.2 million to MoltexFlex to build and operate rigs for the development of molten salt fuel.
- A knowledge sharing initiative led by consultants Arup, to reduce the time, risk, and cost of AMR R&D programme delivery.