The British government has announced that it is investing £18-million in a small modular reactor (SMR) project being developed by a consortium of companies led by Rolls-Royce. It will also invest up to £40-million in research and development grants for up to four advanced modular reactor (AMR) projects (£10-million for each project); the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is currently evaluating project bids.
SMRs and AMRs are categorised as advanced and innovative nuclear technologies, currently being developed. “Modular Reactors are smaller than conventional nuclear power station reactors and are designed so that much of the plant can be built in a factory and transported to site for construction,” explained BEIS in its press release.
The British define SMRs as smaller water-cooled reactors, developed from current nuclear power plant reactors, while AMRs use new fuels and cooling systems and could also offer new applications for nuclear energy. (South Africa’s Pebble Bed Modular Reactor project, terminated in 2010, was an AMR.)
Furthermore, the UK government is also allocating up to £5-million to the country’s Office for Nuclear Regulation and Environmental Agency. This will be used to “modernise the Generic Design Assessment” and increase their readiness to make SMR and AMR licensing decisions in the future.
In its own press release, Rolls-Royce, on behalf of its consortium, “warmly” welcomed the government’s announcement. “Our [SMR] design will bolster the UK’s ambitions to tackle climate change while taking a further step towards creating an estimated 40 000 British jobs, reinvigorating a vital part of the country’s advanced manufacturing base and potentially generating hundreds of billions of pounds in export revenues,” said the company.
The investment by the government will be partly matched by the consortium and by attracting third party investment. “The investment is needed to mature the design, address the considerable manufacturing technology requirements and to progress the regulatory licensing process,” explained the company.
Rolls-Royce is responsible for the design, construction and support of the small nuclear power plants that power Britain’s atomic submarines. The consortium’s other members are Arup, Assystem, BAM Nuttal, Laing O’Rourke, the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, the National Nuclear Laboratory, Siemens, SNC Lavalin/Atkins, and Wood.