UK launches competition to support small nuclear reactors

UK Finance Minister Jeremy Hunt said he would encourage investment in nuclear power by launching a competition for small modular reactors (SMRs) developed by Rolls-Royce and provide funding if the technology is proven viable.

Britain wants to replace its aging nuclear power plants as all but one of the plants generating 13% of the country’s electricity are set to close by 2030.

Large-scale nuclear power projects, with their large initial costs, have difficulty attracting investment, favoring smaller, lower-cost reactors.

“I’m launching the first competition for small modular reactors,” Hunt said during his budget presentation on Wednesday.

“It will be completed by the end of this year and if its viability is proven, we will co-fund this exciting new technology.

Britain already announced competition for SMRs in the 2015 Autumn Declaration. The first phase opened in 2016 and attracted interest from 33 eligible parties.

It ended in 2017 without going beyond the first phase of data collection.

The government last year pledged £210m to Rolls-Royce for its £500m SMR project, which will see it open factories to build nuclear reactors in Britain.

“Rolls-Royce SMR has asked the government to move forward quickly and we welcome the adoption of this policy in the process,” Tom Samson, CEO of Rolls-Royce SMR, said in a statement.

In the Budget, Mr Hunt said he would consult on classifying nuclear power as “environmentally sustainable” and encourage more private investment in the sector.

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