What is the Low-Cost Nuclear challenge?
This challenge will develop a new approach to delivering low-cost nuclear electricity. It will design a UK-based, standardised, compact, repeatable, nuclear power station ‘product’ based around a Small Modular Reactor (SMR) using modern volume manufacturing methodologies. This approach will enable these new SMRs to be deployed in the UK before 2030.
- Standardised SMR’s promise to provide the UK with a versatile option that can be built quickly by the UK supply chain facilitating our move towards a net-zero economy.
- The aim is to develop a SMR, designed and manufactured in the UK, capable of producing cost-competitive, low carbon electricity, creating significant export opportunities for UK businesses.
What is the investment?
Initial public funding of £18m from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund has been awarded to a UK-based consortium led by Rolls-Royce who, with £18m industry match funding, will mature and de-risk a concept design, incorporating many innovations which can reduce cost . This phase is due to be concluded in the first quarter of 2021.
Ultimately, the plan is for this phase to form part of a greater award from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, worth in excess of £500m (joint investment with the private sector), subject to future approvals and a final decision to make a public investment.
The partners in the consortium are Rolls-Royce, Assystem, Atkins, BAM Nuttall, Laing O’Rourke, National Nuclear Laboratory, Jacobs, The Welding Institute (TWI) and Nuclear AMRC.
This public-private collaboration can create a low-carbon energy technology solution to tackle climate change and help achieve net-zero carbon. It will support an increasing contribution from renewables to achieve a reliable and dependable UK electricity supply together with other potential applications in support of decarbonisation across the economy.
What is the opportunity?
The overarching aim of this two-phase challenge is to enable the future deployment of a fleet of low cost SMR power stations across the UK to support the decarbonisation of the UK electricity supply and wider economy from as early as 2030. Further opportunities in overseas markets are being actively explored in what could be a global market in excess of £250bn. The Consortium asserts that in time the program could create up to 40,000 jobs in engineering and manufacturing.
The Committee on Climate Change and Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy show that electricity demand is likely to near-double by 2050, as energy demand switches to low carbon electricity in response to the net-zero carbon target. Therefore, we are likely to need a range of complimentary solutions to meet this goal.
This challenge aligns with the Nuclear Sector Deal (2018) and government’s Advanced Nuclear Technologies framework which can provide the supporting policy framework for encouraging new nuclear technologies, including SMRs and other types of Advanced Modular reactors (AMR).