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UK government invests £215 million into small nuclear reactors

Small modular reactor render

The Prime Minister’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution greenlights the UK Small Modular Reactor programme.

The £215 million investment into small modular reactors (SMR) will be delivered through the Low Cost Nuclear (LCN) programme from 2021 onwards, as part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

UKRI launched the programme in November 2019 with an initial £18 million investment to develop a concept design, which was match funded by the UK SMR consortium, led by Rolls-Royce.

International leader

This is the second investment from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. The investment will accelerate the concept reactor design to a maturity sufficient to attract private investors and help establish the UK as an international leader in SMR manufacturing. This will create a significant boost to the UK nuclear industry.

This significant investment will be boosted by a £300 million investment from industry partners.

In return, the UK SMR programme will:

  • return £52 billion of value to the UK economy by 2050 if a full fleet of 16 power stations is built
  • generate a £250 billion export market with job creation of up to 40,000 high-value jobs
  • rejuvenate UK manufacturing communities in the north of England and north Wales.

A unique opportunity

This UK initiative is a unique opportunity building a new, low-carbon industry that will support the UK’s clean economic recovery as we move towards net zero emissions by 2050.

The co-invested LCN programme continues to enable cost effective progression towards commercial deployment of a fleet of small nuclear reactors. It will deliver low cost energy that will reduce energy bills across the UK.

If successful, small nuclear reactors units could be deployed in the UK by the early 2030s.

Richard Deakin, LCN Challenge Director, said:

The inclusion of new and advanced nuclear in the Prime Minister’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution is a significant step forward for industry in the UK. The plan outlines how investment delivered through the LCN challenge will unlock significant private investment and enable the UK small modular reactor to play a key role in delivering deep decarbonisation of the UK energy system.

I look forward to continuing to work with a consortium of the UK’s leading industrial companies and developing a new and innovative capability to deliver UK small modular reactors at scale and pace. This programme will bring with it, high value manufacturing and engineering jobs and infrastructure as a vital foundation of delivering net zero by 2050.

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. 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.

Tom Samson, interim Chief Executive Officer, UK SMR consortium, said:

Our consortium is excited by the government’s ambition and delighted that there is further investment from UKRI in our power station programme, which is essential to economic recovery and combating climate change. Now the UK SMR consortium will secure up to £300 million of private investment. The announcement reflects the UK government’s confidence in our compelling business case and the strength and capabilities embedded within our team.

Today starts an exciting new chapter of working between government and industry to unlock the levelling up and low cost energy benefits of our design, which is a UK solution to a UK challenge. We will continue our current work and then move seamlessly into our next phase in May 2021 beyond which we can begin creating 40,000 high quality jobs, £52 billion of value to the UK economy; and targeting the £250 billion in exports.

From today’s announcement we are clearly an important part of the government’s commitment to meet its net zero carbon 2050 target through nuclear energy, including the role of our power station in powering the production of hydrogen and synthetic aviation fuels.

Further information

About the LCN challenge

The LCN challenge aims to position the UK as a global leader in the provision of nuclear co-generation technology and services by bridging the existing technology gaps to enable energy-intensive industries to effectively use small nuclear outputs. This will enable the UK to deploy SMR and advanced modular reactors (AMR) quickly and efficiently in the future, making possible their wider application.

UK SMR

Nine companies form a consortium led by Tom Samson, interim Chief Executive Officer.

The consortium is comprised of:

  • Assystem
  • Atkins
  • BAM Nuttall
  • Jacobs, Laing O’Rourke
  • National Nuclear Laboratory
  • Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre
  • Rolls-Royce
  • TWI.

Funding is subject to final approvals.

Top image: Credit: Rolls-Royce

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