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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 Industry Association Conference on 7 December 2017 as the first steps to help achieve this potential.
1. Latest news
The “Commercialisation of Small Nuclear in the UK” event took place on 5-6 November 2018, at the Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry. Richard Harrington announced further information on commitments made in the Nuclear Sector Deal, including the development of the Advanced Manufacturing and Construction programme (see section 3.3) with the intention to launch a grant call for Expressions of Interest to subscribe to the fund before the end of the year.
The minister also highlighted the intention to open the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) process for small and advanced modular reactors in the new year, with registration for expressions of interest opening before the end of the year. In preparation for this BEIS and the UK regulators will aim to hold a GDA workshop in due course to engage with stakeholders.
To register your interest in attending the GDA workshop please email: email@example.com.
The Nuclear Sector Deal, launched on 28 June 2018, sets out clear aims to deliver:
- 30% reduction in the cost of new build projects by 2030
- savings of 20% in the cost of decommissioning compared with current estimates by 2030
- 40% women in nuclear by 2030
- a more competitive supply chain equipped to win domestic and foreign contracts of up to £2 billion by 2030
Advanced Nuclear Technologies (otherwise known as small nuclear or small reactor technologies) encompass a wide range of nuclear reactor technologies under development. 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 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.
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3. 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
3.1 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.
3.2 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:
3.3 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, intending to leverage significant sector investment of at least £12 million. Government is working with the sector to develop the programme and aims to launch a grant call for Expressions of Interest to subscribe to this fund before the end of the year. This will be for projects which demonstrate new advanced capabilities in the UK supply chain and will build on the work of the Nuclear Innovation Program.
3.4 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 GDA process for small and advanced modular reactors will open for applications in the new year, with registration for expressions of interest opening before the end of the year. A workshop will be held in due course for BEIS and the UK regulators to engage with stakeholders on requirements for GDA entry and the GDA process. To register your interest in attending the GDA workshop please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
3.5 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. Small nuclear: UK events
6.1 Previous events
Commercialisation of Small Nuclear in the UK, 5-6 November 2018
BEIS hosted the first-ever government-led small and advanced modular reactor event, dedicated to bringing together key voices from across sectors to explore the commercialisation of small nuclear in the UK. Delegates at the event discussed the investment opportunities of small reactor technologies, attended networking events, workshops and keynote speeches, and were able to see working examples of the technology in practice.
In a speech for the event, Business and Energy Minister Richard Harrington said,
Increasing competitiveness both nationally and regionally in the sector is part of our modern Industrial Strategy, and this summit could help UK industry seize the global challenge of taking this new generation of new nuclear power from concept to construction.
UK 4th Central & Eastern Europe (CEE) Nuclear Energy Summit, 30 October 2018
Daniel Mathers, BEIS Head of Technical – Advanced Nuclear Technologies, presented at the CEE Nuclear Energy Summit on the latest advanced nuclear technology policy and on R&D in relation to advanced manufacturing for civil nuclear in the UK. The CEE Nuclear Energy Summit, led by the Department for International Trade (DIT), showcased the latest opportunities in 7 markets across Central and Eastern Europe and Finland.
View the presentation slides:
BECBC Business Support Group (BSG) Showcase, 3 October 2018
Richard Deakin, BEIS Head of Innovation – Advanced Nuclear Technologies, presented at Britain’s Energy Coast Business Cluster BSG Showcase on the Nuclear Sector Deal and the national and global opportunities presented by small modular reactors.
IAEA General Conference 2018 Side-Event: UK Challenges & Opportunities of Modular Reactors, 19 September 2018
The UK hosted a side event at the IAEA General Conference that focused on sharing the UK experience with policy makers, regulators and industry regarding financing, manufacturing and regulatory challenges and opportunities related to modular reactors. This event was chaired by Robin Grimes.