The UK government has announced £56 million of funding for research and development into small modular nuclear reactor (SMR) technology.
The funding will be made available over the next three years to help support research and development into innovative advanced and small modular reactors as well as assess their feasibility and accelerate the development of promising designs, BEIS said in a statement.
The move is part of the UK’s so-called Industrial Strategy, which aims to ensure that the country is at the forefront of new and advanced technology development.
“New industry figures show that the UK’s civil nuclear sector contributed £6.4 billion to the UK economy last year. Today’s announcements recognise the importance of industry driving innovation, supported by government, so the sector continues to compete at the very highest level, not just in the UK but globally,” said Business Secretary Greg Clark.
A further £86 million was announced by BEIS for fusion research to set up a national fusion technology platform at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy in Oxfordshire.
The new investment will reinforce the UK’s fusion research and development capability, and allow UK firms to compete for up to a further £1 billion of international contracts for fusion technologies, including for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER).
Speaking at the Nuclear Industry Association’s annual conference, Energy Minister Richard Harrington said that nuclear energy “has a key role to play in increasing productivity and driving clean growth” in the UK.
Technology firms believe that SMRs could play a key role in the UK. In September 2017 a consortium of SMR developers, including Rolls Royce, Amec Foster Wheeler and Nuvia, said that SMR reactors can avoid the complexities, delays and overspends often associated with infrastructure projects.
It added that SMRs could produce energy for as low as £60 per megawatt hour – competitive against wind and solar – and urged the government to back technology development.