UK considers how to use small reactor opportunity

Small modular reactors offer significant benefits to the UK, experts have said, but government must clarify whether it wants near-term deployment or maximum value to domestic industry, while industry has to efficiently mass produce to realise economic savings.

“All SMRs share advantages over large nuclear in terms of siting flexibility, potential operational flexibility, grid stability, and potential use of heat,” Richard Beake of Atkins told a London conference today. He was presenting to the Nuclear Energy Insider Small Reactor UK Summit on Atkins’ contribution to a Techno-Economic Assessment (TEA) on SMRs commissioned by the UK government, and due to be published soon.

Publication of the TEA, clarity on the policy balance, and a roadmap for deployment of SMRs in Britain are all expected to come at once towards the end of this year or early in 2017. The matter has been delayed by the reorganisation of the UK government, and in particular the incorporation of the former Department for Energy and Climate Change into the new Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

xisting large nuclear reactor designs are designed for economies of scale, producing up to 1700 MWe, whereas SMRs would produce only up to 300 MWe each, some designs much less than that. The success of SMRs therefore depends on rebalancing the equation of nuclear economics away from economies of scale and towards economies of volume. On this subject Miranda Kirschel spoke for EY, which has carried out the economic aspects of the same government Techno-Economic Assessment.

Rolls-Royce foresees itself potentially deploying 7 GWe of its SMR in the UK, starting before 2030, with a “conservative” further 9 GWe internationally. This means something like 54 of the units Rolls-Royce proposes to design as leader of consortium of British firms and universities. Rolls-Royce said a predominantly British product like its concept could generate £188 billion for the country’s economy and employ 40,000 people at peak.

Globally, the National Nuclear Laboratory considers the potential market for SMRs of all kinds to be up to 85 GWe by 2035.

The full report can be found on the WNN website