Mini nuclear power plant concept gets £56m funding boost from UK government
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The government has announced up to £56m in funding for the development of mini-nuclear plants.
The money will be available over the next three years to assess the potential of designs of advanced and small modular reactors (SMRs).
It will also support early access to regulators in order to build the capability and capacity needed to assess and licence SMRs and will establish an expert finance group to advise how small reactor projects could raise private investment in the UK.
The first round of funding comprises up to £4m for feasibility studies and up to £7m to further develop their capability.
Should these efforts prove successful, up to £40m will be made available for R&D projects to bring the technology into the mainstream.
The government said it wanted the UK to become a world leader in developing the next generation of nuclear technologies.
SMRs use existing or new nuclear technology scaled down to a fraction of the size of larger plants, producing around a tenth of the electricity created by large-scale projects, such as EDF Energy’s Hinkley Point C nuclear power station in Somerset.
Last year, uranium enrichment firm URENCO developed a miniature nuclear power plant so small and cheap that it could power a single town or a factory.
Ministers also announced funding of up to £8m for studies including advanced fuels, saying it wanted to demonstrate its commitment to nuclear “innovations of the future.”
“New industry figures show that the UK’s civil nuclear sector contributed £6.4bn to the UK economy last year,” Business Secretary Greg Clark said.
“Today’s announcements recognise the importance of industry driving innovation, supported by government, so the sector continues to compete at the very highest level, not just in the UK but globally.
“Helping to put the UK at the forefront of future technologies which have the potential to create value and jobs across the whole UK are core objectives of our industrial strategy.”
Energy minister Richard Harrington said consultations would be held in the new year on the UK’s long-term nuclear waste management strategy to enable the development of a multi-billion pound infrastructure project, creating thousands of jobs.
The Government also listed eight sites as potentially suitable for the deployment of new nuclear power stations in England and Wales - Hinkley Point C, Wylfa, Sellafield (more commonly known as Moorside), Sizewell, Bradwell, Oldbury, Hartlepool and Heysham.
Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Green Party, commented: “The government’s energy policy is a mess.
“Ministers are ploughing huge sums of money into supporting overpriced nuclear, while retaining a de facto ban on onshore wind and failing to give solar the support the sector needs.
“They’re sending mixed messages to investors when we desperately need clarity to show that the government is serious about creating a renewables-based low-carbon Britain.”
In July it emerged that Hinkley Point C nuclear power station will cost nearly 10 per cent more than anticipated and will take longer to construct.