UK makes big push for small nuclear reactors

Article by Staff Writer

THE UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has announced a £250m (US$361m) funding competition for the development of small modular reactors (SMRs) for the nuclear industry.

The UK government is pushing the use of nuclear to help reduce carbon emissions from energy production in line with the UN’s Paris climate change agreement and its own 2020 renewable targets. The government said it would meet its targets with the lowest-cost method for consumers.

The competition will proceed in two phases. The first phase will involve collecting and assessing applications from prospective participants. This will involve having a “structured dialogue” with eligible companies to determine if participants can deliver commercial deployment of SMR technology within a timeframe yet to be agreed. However the government’s targets indicate it would be looking for SMRs to be commercially available by 2024.

The government will develop an SMR roadmap during the first phase discussions that will help define criteria such as; energy objectives, cost effectiveness, design specifications and site placements.

The second phase to develop a commercial technology will take place once the participants have submitted applications, and met the competition criteria.

Amber Rudd, energy and climate change secretary, said in a statement, “SMRs have the potential to play a key part in our energy mix that we can rely on for years ahead. By launching the first phase of a competition to identify the best-value small modular design for the UK, we are positioning the UK as a global leader in nuclear innovation.”

SMR advocates maintain the technology can help bring down the cost of nuclear power, while reducing carbon emissions, and allow for a more decentralised self-sufficient power-grid able to feed each region’s needs.

However, critics argue that there is little evidence to support a decrease in energy costs. They also question the assurances that novel designs including molten salt reactor cores are less likely to meltdown, given they have not been tested over a long-term operational lifespan.

Several companies have claimed they are ready to develop SMRs for the UK market including Westinghouse Electric and NuScale Power. However it is not yet known if they intend to participate in the competition.

Article by Staff Writer

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