Britain on Tuesday opened a competition to develop small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs), such as those being developed by Rolls-Royce, as it launched its new Great British Nuclear body designed to help drive the expansion of projects in the country.
Britain is aiming to increase its nuclear power capacity to 24 gigawatts (GW) by 2050 as part of efforts to meet climate targets and boost energy security. That would meet around a quarter of projected electricity demand, up sharply from about 14% today.
Large new nuclear projects, with high upfront costs, have struggled to attract financing and the government hopes some older plants could be replaced by a fleet of SMRs which can be made in factories, with lower costs and faster construction.
Companies can, from Tuesday, register their interest in the government’s SMR competition. The Great British Nuclear body, also launched on Tuesday, will select technologies that have met the criteria in the Autumn.
The competition “could result in billions of pounds of public and private sector investment,” Secretary of State for Energy Security, Grant Shapps said.
Companies selected will then start discussions as part of an Invitation to Negotiate phase, the government said.
The SMR competition was first announced alongside the budget in March this year.
In 2021 the government committed 210 million pounds to Rolls-Royce for its 500-million pound SMR programme which could see the company open factories to build the reactors in Britain.
Britain previously announced a competition for SMRs in the 2015 Autumn Statement which ultimately closed in 2017 without moving beyond the initial, information-gathering first stage.
Along with SMRs the government said it is committed to large-scale new projects, such as EDF’s Hinkley Point C, the first new plant in more than 20 years, and EDF’s Sizewell C in which the government has invested around 700 million pounds, becoming a 50% shareholder in the development phase.
(Reporting By Susanna Twidale; Editing by Bernadette Baum)