Small nuclear reactors that can be produced in factories and transported to a generator site by truck could be operating in the UK within the next 15 years, according to a new report by the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI).
The report – Preparing For Deployment of A UK Small Modular Reactor By 2030 – outlines some of the measures which need to be taken to support the roll out of so-called small modular reactor technology and calls on government to introduce a policy framework that will encourage investor confidence in the technology.
The study also re-assesses the viability of deploying SMRs as Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plants, as well as power generation, highlighting the economic benefits of extracting low carbon heat for supply to district heating networks.
Due to their smaller size and easier siting, SMRs offer flexibility and could deliver low carbon heat into cities via hot water pipelines up to 30km in length. This flexibility opens up new potential sites and can help to decarbonise energy use in buildings.
Another benefit of SMRs is that they can be built to a standard design in factories before being assembled on site. This standardisation has the potential to accelerate cost reduction through the economy of multiples.
The ETI report says that a range of locations have the characteristics for potential early deployment of UK SMRs, including a number of sites potentially suitable for a UK First of a Kind SMR.
Mike Middleton, the ETI’s nuclear strategy manager and report author said: “Our analysis shows that it is possible to have a first of a kind SMR operating by 2030 if SMR developer(s), SMR vendor(s), government and regulators work together in an integrated programme.
In April 2015, the then Department of Energy and Climate Change launched a Government inter-Departmental Techno-Economic Appraisal to gather information to support government policy development on SMRs. In November 2015, the government announced a programme of £250m for nuclear research and development including SMRs, and in March 2016 the government announced Phase 1 of a competition to identify the best value SMR design for the UK.
In a recent article for The Engineer on the topic, Gregg Butler – head of strategic assessment at the Dalton Nuclear Institute, Manchester University – outlined some of the challenges and echoed the ETI’s calls for a strategic government-led focus on the technology.