Policy statement

Small Modular Reactors: A UK Opportunity

In this policy statement we describe the opportunity for UK involvement in small modular reactor (SMR) development activities, and the economic, business and infrastructure factors that make engagement an attractive proposition.

There are currently about 435 nuclear power reactors operating in 30 countries around the world, with an additional 72 under construction, and 473 either planned or proposed.

In general, these are based on established large-scale reactor technology, which has been commercialised from variants first used in the 1950s–‘60s for installation in power stations with outputs of 1,000MW(e) and above.

Such reactors need a ‘nuclear’ infrastructure to support their use. This infrastructure includes a regulatory framework, engineering capability and, ideally, large robust electricity grid systems.

However, in recent years the potential benefits of installing reactors in countries which do not have an established nuclear infrastructure, or in areas where grid systems are less developed and robust, have been identified and led to a growing interest in the technical development of small modular reactors (SMRs).

Key recommendations

  1. The UK government should include within the UK’s nuclear sector strategy a pathway for engaging the nation in future emerging SMR markets. This should be achieved through the design and supply of reactor modules, which are an integral part of the technology.

    In this way it will provide an opportunity for the UK to return to the international nuclear reactor supply arena and position the sector to benefit from emerging markets for SMRs and engage with the wider related commercial export opportunities.
  2. The UK government should evaluate the potential of three light water reactor (LWR) SMR designs and select one as a candidate for UK engagement in SMR engineering and manufacture.

    Such an assessment should consider the technical match with the nation’s nuclear skills and capabilities, the reactor’s future commercial potential, as well as its potential for a successful passage through the UK’s rigorous generic design assessment (GDA) process. This should be in addition to the evaluation currently underway regarding the use of GE Hitachi’s PRISM product for disposition of the nation’s plutonium stockpile at Sellafield.
  3. The UK government, in collaboration with the Welsh government, should support making the existing nuclear licensed site at Trawsfynydd in North Wales available as a location for the building and demonstration testing of an SMR.

    This should be constructed in co-operation with UK companies and incorporating modules engineered and manufactured within the UK by the nation’s nuclear industry.

Related links

Read the Institution News article:
Institution helps influence the debate on small modular reactors


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