National Nuclear Laboratory urges UK investment in SMRs

04 December 2014

The UK has the opportunity "to regain technology leadership" in the ownership and development of low-carbon generation and secure energy supplies through investment in Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), according to a feasibility study published yesterday by the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL).

The study considered four designs in detail - ACP100+ (designed by CNNC); mPower (B&W and Bechtel); Westinghouse SMR (Westinghouse); and NuScale (Fluor).

"There is a very significant market for SMRs where they fulfil a market need that cannot be met by large nuclear plants, with the size of the potential SMR market calculated to be approximately 65-85 GW of new capacity by 2035, valued at £250-£400 billion ($392-627 billion), if the economics are competitive," NNL said. The UK market for SMRs could be around 7 GW of power on the same timescale.

The report was produced on a cost share basis with the UK government by a consortium of organizations under the project management of NNL, and led by independent project director Gordon Waddington. In addition to NNL, the consortium comprised Amec, Atkins, KPMG, Lloyd's Register, the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, Rolls-Royce and The University of Manchester.

"First-of-a-kind" SMRs could be cost comparable with conventional nuclear build, with the potential to become more cost competitive as more are built, NNL said. But further evidence is required to make a policy decision or for business to make an investment.

Paul Howarth, NNL managing director, said SMR technology "has the potential to play a substantial part in the UK’s clean energy future, and also to help boost UK wealth creation by virtue of the significant scope for UK companies to be part of the supply chain for SMR systems." The feasibility report is "an important step on the way towards recognizing the role which SMR designs can play and helping to capitalize on the opportunities offered.”

The outcome of the study will inform the next steps in the development of government's policy approach to SMRs, NNL said.

Meanwhile, a new £235 million ($368 million) science research centre was given the go-ahead for Manchester yesterday in Chancellor George Osborne's latest budget, known as the Autumn Statement. The Sir Henry Royce Institute for Advanced Materials Research and Innovation will also have branches in Leeds, Liverpool, London, Cambridge, Oxford and Sheffield.

The nuclear materials part of the centre will be supported by facilities at the National Nuclear Laboratory in Cumbria and the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy in Abingdon, Oxfordshire.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News