Government pledges support for advanced nuclear

By 18 November 2020 April 20th, 2021 Industry news

The UK government has outlined plans to invest £525 million to help develop large and smaller-scale nuclear plants, and research and develop new advanced modular reactors.

The announcement is part of a 10-point plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The plan aims to mobilise £12 billion of government investment to create and support up to 250,000 highly-skilled green jobs in the UK, and spur over three times as much private sector investment by 2030.

The nuclear investment aims to advance nuclear as a clean energy source, covering both large-scale nuclear and a next generation of small and advanced reactors. The government says the investment could support 10,000 jobs.

Tom Greatrex, Chief Executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, commented: “The UK government’s commitment to large, small and advanced nuclear as part of the future energy mix is an important pointer towards how we will achieve net zero. All zero emissions technologies will need to play their part for net zero to become a reality.”

According to the detailed outline of the plan, the nuclear investment includes:

  • Up to £385 million in an Advanced Nuclear Fund, including up to £215 million for small modular reactor development through the UK SMR consortium.
  • Up to £170 million for a R&D programme on advanced modular reactors, with the aim of building a demonstrator by the early 2030s.
  • £40 million to develop the regulatory frameworks and support UK supply chains for new reactor designs.

The SMR funding was welcomed by Tom Samson, interim CEO for the UK SMR consortium. “Our consortium is excited by the government’s ambition and delighted that there is further investment from UK Research and Innovation in our power station programme, which is essential to economic recovery and combating climate change,” he said. “The announcement reflects the UK government’s confidence in our compelling business case and the strength and capabilities embedded within our team.”

The next phase of the UK SMR programme will begin in May 2021 and last for four years. Milestones will include launching a new company, and raising an additional £300 million in new capital to deliver a fully-engineered solution with regulatory approval. The consortium will also identify and develop sites for new factories to make components and modules for the power stations.

The UK SMR consortium includes Assystem, Atkins, BAM Nuttall, Jacobs, Laing O’Rourke, NNL, Nuclear AMRC, Rolls-Royce and TWI. The new funding comes from the low cost nuclear programme of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, managed by UKRI.

“This investment represents the largest government investment in small nuclear reactors, and I am excited to see the SMR programme develop over the coming months and years,” said Richard Deakin, director of the low cost nuclear challenge. “We are building on the UK’s world-class innovation and skills capability to develop an industry which can have global significance and address the challenge of clean economic growth so vital for our future.”

The government’s 10-point plan also includes support for offshore wind, hydrogen production and carbon capture.

Greatrex welcomed the introduction of a new target of 5GW of low-carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030. “Nuclear power can produce clean, green hydrogen without any carbon emissions, so it has a critical role to play in developing the hydrogen economy,” he said. “We hope the Government will support green hydrogen, since our goal is to use hydrogen to reduce emissions. There is no use in deploying hydrogen if we have to emit large amount of carbon to create it.”