Small modular reactors (SMRs) could be operating in the UK by 2030 if the government can encourage early investor confidence, according to a new report by the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI).
A policy framework which reduces risk for SMR developers will create investor confidence, according to the report called Preparing for Deployment of a UK Small Modular Reactor By 2030.
ETI is a private public partnership of energy and engineering companies, including EDF and Hinkley Point C preferred supplier Rolls-Royce, and the UK government.
“Our analysis shows that it is possible to have a first of a kind SMR operating by 2030 if SMR developers, SMR vendors, government and regulators work together in an integrated programme,” said ETI’s nuclear strategy manager and report author Mike Middleton, who is seconded from Rolls Royce.
“Creating the right environment for increasing investor confidence is critical if this schedule is to be met; there will be a key role for government in the first five years of any such programme to deliver an SMR policy framework which progressively reduces investor risk.”
The study has also argued that using SMRs as combined heat and power plants, rather than just for power generation, not only has economic benefits, but it offers a low-carbon solution for many sites UK wide. In addition, because SMRs can be factory built, standardisation will reduce costs.
“We have carried out further design and cost assessments which reconfirm the attractiveness of deploying SMRs as CHP plants linked to district heating systems identifying further carbon savings and cost benefits,” said Middleton.
“UK regulatory assessment through generic design assessment is a big commitment. If SMR designs can combine standardised production in factories with developer options for heat take-off and cooling systems then there are two benefits. Firstly, these options can increase deployment opportunities which can further reduce unit cost; secondly it is not necessary to reassess the design or reconfigure the factory production process to deliver these options and again this reduces downstream deployment costs.”
“Our work has also identified a range of sites with the right environment to facilitate early UK deployment of SMRs, with a number of them being potentially suitable for a first of a kind. But it is important to take a strategic approach to managing potential sites because of the limited number of sites suitable for large reactors in England and Wales.”
The government announced phase one of a competition to identify the best value SMR design for the UK in March.