UK government urged to look at SMR costs

17 December 2014

The UK government should encourage the development and deployment of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), a parliamentary committee has recommended. However, it says the costs need to be fully understood.

"While we recognize that the nuclear industry's immediate priority is rightly the successful delivery of the UK's current conventional new build program, we also recognize that SMRs - particularly those based on known nuclear technologies - are a viable proposition for future deployment in the UK in the next decade," the Commons Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change said in a report published today.

"We recommend the government takes a proactive role in driving forward the development and deployment of these reactors in the UK."

Energy and Climate Change Committee

It suggested, "Small Modular Reactors could potentially have a key role to play in delivering low carbon energy at lower upfront capital cost compared to large conventional nuclear reactors. That said, the commercial viability of SMRs remains unclear."

"It will be important to understand the future cost comparison with large-scale nuclear reactors as well as the comparison with other small-scale energy generation or demand management," the committee said. It recommends the UK government examines the costs of SMRs and determine the conditions required to make them cost competitive.

The report suggests that, in the short-term, deployment of SMRs is likely to be achieved through sharing the costs between the public and private sector. However, it says the government should help establish the right conditions for investment in SMRs, such as "through supporting the regulator to bring forward approvals in the UK, and by setting out a clear view on siting options." It recommends the Department of Energy and Climate Change ensures that the Office for Nuclear regulation is adequately resourced to support SMR developers in the early stages of preparing their designs for approval.

"The government should support the use of existing nuclear sites for the deployment of SMRs. These sites could potentially host a demonstrator module with minimal additional infrastructure requirements and with the support of a skilled local workforce," the committee said.

It noted that, while current SMR designs have predominantly been developed outside of the UK, "there is scope for British industry to develop intellectual property and play a role in the deployment of the first SMRs."

The publication of the committee's report comes two weeks after the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) released a feasibility study on the deployment of SMRs in the UK.

The Energy and Climate Change Committee noted that NNL's study "provides a useful preliminary financial analysis but itself acknowledges that a more detailed analysis is required."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News