UK plans small modular nuclear reactor ‘in 2020s’
Posted on: 01/12/2015

Ministers have announced £250m worth of funding for nuclear research and development, with plans to build one of the world’s first small modular reactors in the 2020s. The Treasury delivered the news last Wednesday, after ministers announced support for the technology through a £250m research package. Developers say small nuclear reactors would be cheaper and quicker to build than traditional nuclear plants, and also more flexible.

Components for the small reactors would be manufactured in factories and then assembled on site. Whilst small reactors would have a lower capacity than conventional nuclear plants, such as the proposed Hinkley Point plant in Somerset, they would be more flexible in their generation. A competition for funding will be held early next year, the Treasury has said.

The UK is trying to find ways of cutting carbon emissions while generating baseload power that can be relied on at all times of the day, as wind and solar power is dependent on certain weather conditions. The Treasury hopes this will "revive the UK’s nuclear expertise and position the UK as a global leader in innovative nuclear technologies".

Westinghouse, one of the companies developing the technology, has already sought Government support for a 225-megawatt design which it says could rapidly increase or decrease power output to help balance out fluctuations in renewable power.

Fluor Corp.’s NuScale Power unit and Babcock & Wilcox Enterprises Inc. are also developing small reactors; some of which are as small as a refrigerator that are quicker to build and easier to deploy than traditional nuclear power stations.

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