Eligible participants for SMR competition revealed

The government has revealed which organisations will be eligible to take part in the first phase of its competition to find the “best value” small modular reactor (SMR) design for the UK.

Artist's impression of NuScale SMR being transportedArtist’s impression of NuScale SMR being transported

The first phase will seek to gauge market interest among developers, utilities, investors and funders in “developing, commercialising and financing SMRs in the UK”. Out of 38 bidders the government deemed 33 eligible to participate.

The list includes a number of major players in the development of new larger nuclear plants in the UK: EDF, the developer of Hinkley Point C; China National Nuclear Corporation, which is expected to buy a stake in Hinkley if it goes ahead; GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy, the supplier of two Advanced Boiling Water Reactors (ABWR) for the Wylfa Newydd plant in North Wales; and Westinghouse, the supplier of two AP-1000 reactors for the Moorside plant in Cumbria.

It also features NuScale Power, which plans to deploy its first SMR in the state of Idaho in the US in 2024, and Sheffield Forgemasters, which NuScale recently commissioned to forge a demonstration reactor vessel in Britain by the end of 2017.

Manufacturing giant Rolls-Royce, accountancy firm EY and the National Nuclear Laboratory – which published a major study into the feasibility of SMRs in 2014 – are among the other notable inclusions.

In its 2015 autumn budget statement, the government announced it would invest £250 million in an “ambitious nuclear research and development programme”, including in the SMR competition which was launched in March.

The newly formed Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy will put together a roadmap for the development of SMRs in the UK in parallel with the first phase of the competition. The roadmap will be published after the first phase concludes.

The idea behind SMRs is that, by virtue of being small and modular, large numbers of them can be pre-fabricated in factories to a single design before being transported on site and combined together to form larger plants. The hope is that constructing reactors in this way will bring down costs.  

Last month the Welsh Affairs Committee urged the government not to support the development of SMRs unless it can show there is enough demand for the reactors to make them economically viable

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