Government allocates £210m for small modular nuclear reactors
The UK Government has confirmed a funding pot of £210m to assist the development of the small modular reactors (SMR) that will be backed by more than £250m in private sector investment.
The £210m in government funding will help assist the creation of SMRs. The reactors will be developed by Rolls-Royce and will be matched with more than £250m in private sector investment.
The Government believes that SMRs will be less expensive and easier to build than traditional nuclear plants due to their small size. They can also be built at dedicated factories to reduce construction time.
Rolls Royce SMR estimates that each Small Modular Reactor could be capable of powering one million homes.
Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the UK to deploy more low carbon energy than ever before and ensure greater energy independence.
“Small modular reactors offer exciting opportunities to cut costs and build more quickly, ensuring we can bring clean electricity to people’s homes and cut our already-dwindling use of volatile fossil fuels even further. By harnessing British engineering and ingenuity, we can double down on our plan to deploy more home-grown, affordable clean energy in this country.”
State of play
The UK currently generates about 20% of its electricity from nuclear, which has helped low-carbon sources account for the majority of the UK’s energy mix.
However, almost half of the UK’s nuclear capacity is set to be retired by 2025. Hunterston B, Hinkley Point B, Heysham I and Hartlepool nuclear power stations are all scheduled to retire by the end of 2024, representing more than 4GW of nominal generating capacity. Another two large facilities are planning to come offline by 2030.
The Energy Networks Association – the industry body representing all major energy network operators in the UK – notes that nuclear is crucial to the UK’s net-zero target.
More broadly, the UK had committed £1.7bn to bring at least one large-scale nuclear project to a final investment decision and £120m on the Future Nuclear Enabling Fund to provide targeted support towards further nuclear projects as part of the Net Zero Strategy.
But the UK Government has been accused of failing to support nuclear at an appropriate scale, and of failing to plan ahead for the impending ‘nuclear gap’.
Elsewhere, Atkins predicts that the power share in 2050 will consist of nuclear (11%); wind and solar (58%); combined cycle gas turbines with carbon capture storage (22%); and bioenergy with carbon capture storage (6%). To accommodate nuclear’s share, the organisation claims that six nuclear power stations will be required for a net-zero UK.
The Climate Change Committee’s (CCC) recommendations on the sixth carbon budget, designed to deliver a 78% reduction in absolute national emissions by 2035 against a 1990 baseline, include measures to build enough new nuclear to replace the current fleet as a minimum.
Currently, Parliament is considering the Nuclear Energy Financing Bill which would establish a new financing model for nuclear projects, known as the Regulated Asset Base (RAB) as part of a wider Nuclear Strategy expected this month.
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