European SMR Industrial Alliance launched

07 February 2024

The European Commission has launched an Industrial Alliance dedicated to small modular reactors (SMRs), aiming to facilitate the development of SMRs in Europe by the early 2030s. The announcement came as the commission presented its assessment for a 2040 climate target for the EU.

The European Commission (Image: Pixabay)

The European Commission set up a European SMR pre-Partnership in June last year with the overall objective of identifying enabling conditions and constraints, including financial ones, towards safe design, construction and operation of SMRs in Europe in the next decade and beyond, in compliance with the EU legislative framework in general and to the Euratom legislative framework in particular.

In early November, it announced that it would establish an Industrial Alliance for SMRs early this year. Industrial alliances are a tool to facilitate stronger cooperation and joint action between all interested partners. Industrial alliances can play a role in achieving key EU policy objectives through joint action by all the interested partners.

"The cxommission is also launching an Industrial Alliance to facilitate stakeholder's cooperation at EU level and to accelerate the deployment of SMRs and ensure a strong EU supply chain, including a skilled workforce," the commission said in a statement on 6 February. "This will leverage EU's manufacturing and innovation capacities to accelerate the deployment of first SMR projects in the EU by early 2030 under the highest standards of nuclear safety, environmental sustainability, and industrial competitiveness."

According to the commission, this Industrial Alliance will elaborate a Strategic Action Plan in order to identify, for example: technically mature and commercially viable SMR technologies that could be supported under the alliance; potential gaps and solutions in the European supply chain for SMRs (including fuel and raw materials); investment barriers, funding opportunities and new financial blending options to support SMR development; and future needs for research on SMRs and advanced modular reactors (AMRs) and identify existing skills gaps along the supply chain to be addressed under the Euratom Research and Training Programme, and at national level.

A call for alliance membership will open shortly. All public and private legal entities which fulfil a set of eligibility membership criteria can apply for membership. In addition, a dissemination event covering the scope, objectives and activities of the Industrial Alliance is expected to be organised in Brussels next month.

European nuclear trade body Nucleareurope, which has been instrumental in the creation of the SMR Alliance, said: "Thanks to the work undertaken as Chair of the European SMR pre-Partnership Steering Committee and our outreach to Members of the European Parliament that culminated in the overwhelming adoption of an Own Initiative Report on SMRs."

"The deployment of SMRs will bring significant benefits to Europe, including greater energy sovereignty, lower CO2 emissions, new jobs and economic growth," said Nucleareurope Director General Yves Desbazeille. "The European nuclear industry has been at the forefront of innovation and industrial excellence for decades and this Industrial Alliance will help maintain our industry's world class position.

"However, there are several challenges which need to be tackled to ensure the smooth deployment of SMRs. Therefore, we are delighted that the commission is moving ahead with this alliance in order to work on viable solutions to overcome these challenges."

Urenco - which was actively engaged in the European SMR Pre-Partnership - welcomed the launch of the Industrial Alliance. "The increased global demand to reduce emissions and strengthen energy security is increasing the focus on new nuclear technologies such as SMRs and AMRs, as well as the fuels needed to power them," it said. "The alliance will help to further increase confidence in the sector by facilitating the necessary conditions across the supply chain to accelerate the development of these new technologies in a safe, efficient, and secure manner, and Urenco looks forward to supporting the Alliance through the relevant working groups."

2040 climate target announced

The announcement of the launch of the Industrial Alliance for SMRs came as the Commission published a detailed impact assessment on possible pathways to reach the agreed goal of making the European Union climate neutral by 2050. The EU's 2030 climate target is to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% relative to 1990. Based on the latest impact assessment, the European Commission recommends a 90% net greenhouse gas emissions reduction by 2040 compared with 1990 levels, launching a discussion with all stakeholders; a legislative proposal will be made by the next Commission, after the European elections, and agreed with the European Parliament and Member States as required under the EU Climate Law.

"Today's communication also sets out a number of enabling policy conditions which are necessary to achieve the 90% target," the commission said. "They include the full implementation of the agreed 2030 framework, ensuring the competitiveness of the European industry, a greater focus on a just transition that leaves no one behind, a level playing field with international partners, and a strategic dialogue on the post-2030 framework, including with industry and the agricultural sector."

It added: "Setting a 2040 climate target will help European industry, investors, citizens and governments to make decisions in this decade that will keep the EU on track to meet its climate neutrality objective in 2050. It will send important signals on how to invest and plan effectively for the longer term, minimising the risks of stranded assets ... It will also boost Europe's resilience against future crises, and notably strengthen the EU's energy independence from fossil fuel imports, which accounted for over 4% of GDP in 2022 as we faced the consequences of Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine. The costs and human impacts of climate change are increasingly large, and visible."

The European Commission noted that the energy sector is projected to achieve full decarbonisation shortly after 2040, "based on all zero and low-carbon energy solutions, including renewables, nuclear, energy efficiency, storage, CCS, CCU, carbon removals, geothermal and hydro".

Researched and written by World Nuclear News