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Billions needed to build small modular reactors

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Energy firms have requested billions of pounds in government funding to construct small modular reactors (SMRs) for nuclear power stations.

Reports obtained by the Guardian show that some energy firms are asking for billions of pounds of public money to fund SMR construction costs. 

The companies involved include Rolls-Royce, Sheffield Forgemasters and Atkins, along with China’s CNNC, France’s EDF Energy as well as US companies NuScale.  

SMRs are marketed by their supporters as more affordable nuclear power option, and safer than larger projects, such as Hinkley Point C, which is under construction in Somerset.  

Some of the firms named requested as much as £3.6bn to supplement construction costs.  

An additional £480M was also requested to help get SMR designs through the regulatory approval process – a cost normally covered by energy companies.  

Last month, the government was accused of “crushing” the country’s modular nuclear power programme.

NuScale recently had its modular reactor accepted to undergo the full design certification review by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission – and will be the first of its kind built in the US.  

Nuclear policy consultant David Lowry said: “SMRs are either old, discredited designs repackaged when companies see governments prepared to throw taxpayers’ subsidies to support them, or are exotic new technologies, with decades of research needed before they reach commercial maturity.” 

The report was drafted by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), which recommends that the government create a framework for bringing smaller plants to market.  

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