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The advanced nuclear sector has the potential to play an important part in the UK’s Industrial Strategy building on our existing economic strengths and competitive advantages in nuclear whilst shaping new advanced nuclear markets and contributing to tackling the Clean Growth Grand Challenge.
Richard Harrington announced policies in a speech to the Nuclear Industries Association Conference on 7 December 2017 as the first steps to help achieve this potential.
The Nuclear Sector Deal, announced on 28 June 2018, sets out clear aims to benefit the UK:
- to reduce the cost of nuclear new build by 30% by 2030
- to reduce the cost of decommissioning to taxpayers by 20%
- to establish a more competitive supply chain equipped to win domestic and foreign contracts of up to £2 billion by 2030
Advanced nuclear technologies encompass a wide range of nuclear reactor technologies under development, including smaller reactors (sometimes known as Small Modular Reactors or SMRs). The common attributes that these technologies share is that they are smaller than conventional nuclear power station reactors and are designed so that much of the plant can be fabricated in a factory environment and transported to site, reducing construction risk and making them less capital-intensive.
Generally advanced nuclear technologies fall into one of 2 groups:
- Generation III water-cooled Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), which are similar to existing nuclear power station reactors but on a smaller scale
- Generation IV and beyond Advanced Modular Reactors (AMRs), which use novel cooling systems or fuels to offer new functionality (such as industrial process heat) and potentially a step change reduction in costs
There is a large variety of potential technologies within these groups which range in scale between micro, small and medium scale reactors and which span technology types from conventional water-cooled reactors, to Generation IV reactors using novel fuels and coolants, as well as fusion reactor concepts.
Given this breadth, government believes that “SMR”, as commonly understood, is too narrow a description for technologies coming forward after the current generation of nuclear power stations. Instead government considers this to be the “Advanced Nuclear” market.
1. Contact us
2. Advanced Nuclear Technology Framework
The UK has consistently been a world leader in nuclear technology and has been at the forefront of many new developments. We have a wealth of expertise and experience both in our national laboratories, Catapults and research centres, and in the wider UK nuclear industry and supply chain.
This has contributed both to the economic prosperity and security of the nation, and to the wider international community. Nuclear technology continues to develop rapidly, with significant programmes of research in new build and decommissioning across the global industry.
To ensure that the UK is leading this innovation, we intend to build on recent announcements and set out a clear direction for advanced nuclear technologies in the UK.
The new framework that we are establishing will support advanced nuclear technologies and challenge the industry to bring forward technically and commercially viable propositions that could be developed with private finance.
The framework comprises the following elements:
- financing (including the work of the Expert Finance Working Group)
- the AMR R&D programme
- regulatory readiness
- supply chain development
- land access and siting
2.1 Financing and the Expert Finance Working Group
In December 2017, the government set up an Expert Finance Working Group to advise on how small and advanced modular reactor projects could raise investment in the UK. The Group brought together expertise from across the financial sector, industry, academia and government to test the hypothesis that the characteristics of small reactors (lower up-front capital cost, shorter build time etc.) could enable innovative private finance solutions.
The final report, Market Framework for Financing Small Nuclear, was published on 7 August 2018:
For further information on the group, please see the Expert Finance Working Group on Small Reactors page.
2.2 Advanced Modular Reactor (AMR) Feasibility & Development (F&D) Project
BEIS is to invest up to £44 million in the Advanced Modular Reactor (AMR) Feasibility and Development (F&D) project. 8 organisations have been awarded contracts to produce feasibility studies as part of phase 1. Find more details about the project:
2.3 Supply chain development
The expected use of factory manufacturing and off-site assembly of smaller reactors will rely on a highly productive and capable supply chain that uses cutting edge technology and processes to manufacture nuclear components cost-effectively.
The government and the sector will work together to establish an Advanced Manufacturing and Construction programme of work to demonstrate new ways of making key, high-value nuclear components, or designing systems or processes.
The government will provide up to £20 million (subject to approval) to leverage significant sector investment, starting with a £12 million commitment, but increasing as the programme takes shape.
2.4 Regulatory readiness
The government has provided up to £7 million to the Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Environment Agency to build the regulators’ capability and capacity for future licensing of small and advanced modular reactors.
The Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Environment Agency are reviewing and improving the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) process to take account of lessons learned from previous assessments and introduce greater flexibility into the process. The inherent objectives and advantages of the GDA process remain unchanged.
The aim is that more mature designs of smaller reactors could enter the GDA process in the near term (late 2018, subject to the readiness of the individual designs). BEIS is working closely with the nuclear regulators on the entry criteria for the GDA.
2.5 Land access and siting
The government recognises growing local and regional interest in a number of sites for further nuclear development. In principle, it notes the arguments of developers that new, smaller power plants should (re)use existing, licensed sites to take advantage of past investment in infrastructure and grid connections, and the skilled workforces around them. We will be actively considering the question of siting for smaller reactors.
3. Small Modular Reactor competition
In March 2016, government launched the first phase of the SMR competition as an evidence-gathering phase with the goal of gauging market interest among technology developers, utilities, and potential investors.
Following successful engagement with industry, the competition closed in December 2017. This exercise provided valuable insight into the advanced nuclear technologies market. We are grateful to the entrants for their participation.
4. Research and evidence
In March 2015, government commissioned an independent Techno-Economic Assessment (TEA) of SMRs in order to contribute to the evidence base and help inform policy decisions. There were 7 projects involved in the TEA, including a comprehensive analysis of SMRs, cost reduction studies, assessment of the UK regulatory regime and more.
Read the Techno-Economic Assessment reports.