UK government launches SMR competition

18 March 2016

The UK government has launched the initial phase of its small modular reactor (SMR) competition with a call for initial expressions of interest. It has also announced that an SMR Delivery Roadmap will be published later this year.

Last November, the government announced plans to invest at least £250 million ($352 million) over the next five years in an "ambitious" nuclear research and development program to include a competition to identify the best value SMR design for the UK. In his 2016 Budget speech on 16 March, British Chancellor George Osborne announced, "We're now inviting bids to help develop the next generation of small modular reactors".

Yesterday, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) officially launched the first phase of the competition by publishing a request for expressions of interest.

DECC said the objective of the initial phase is "to gauge market interest among technology developers, utilities, potential investors and funders in developing, commercializing and financing SMRs in the UK." It said this stage would be a "structured dialogue" between the government and participants.

NuScale plans to participate

The USA's NuScale Power was quick to confirm that it will put its SMR forward as part of the UK's competition. It also confirmed that talks with potential developers interested in deploying the technology in the UK in the late 2020s are advancing, as are plans to "put British nuclear engineering and advanced manufacturing at the forefront of that deployment".

The government said that eligibility to participate in the first phase will be determined using a set of criteria, which it published along with the request for expressions of interest. "These criteria have been formulated to ensure that only credible organizations are accepted into the Phase One dialogue," DECC said. The deadline for applications to take part in the first phase is 6 May, with eligible participants being notified by 23 May. The Phase One dialogue is scheduled to begin in late May.

DECC said it also plans to develop an SMR Roadmap which will "summarize the evidence so far, set out the policy framework and assess the potential, for one or more possible pathways for SMRs to help the UK achieve its energy objectives, while delivering economic benefits". It will also contain details of the process the government will use to identify "suitable sites or types of sites". In addition, the Roadmap will detail "any work the government will undertake with the Office for Nuclear Regulation to ensure that appropriate provision is made within the process for regulatory approval, including through Generic Design Assessment".

DECC said it expects the first phase of the competition will run until late-2016 and intends to publish the Roadmap after the close of Phase One, in parallel with publication of plans for the next step in the SMR competition.

Plans for an SMR in the UK in the 2020s follows the publication, in December 2014, of a feasibility report by a consortium led by the National Nuclear Laboratory into the potential impact of SMR technology on the UK energy sector and the UK nuclear supply chain.

Tom Greatrex, chief executive of UK trade body the Nuclear Industry Association, said: "Small modular reactors could potentially play a significant complementary role to the UK's existing new build program and it is welcome that the government is looking seriously at the development of SMRs." He added, "It is important that the road map the Chancellor has promised by the autumn should maximise the opportunities for UK industry."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News