Mini nuclear reactors ‘could be operating in UK by 2030’

Mini nuclear power plants could play a key role in the UK’s low carbon future by as early as 2030. The Energy Technologies Institute’s (ETI) latest research with development and […]

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By Jonny Bairstow

Mini nuclear power plants could play a key role in the UK’s low carbon future by as early as 2030.

The Energy Technologies Institute’s (ETI) latest research with development and engineering consultancy Mott MacDonald suggests small modular reactors (SMRs) could play a vital role as combined heat and power (CHP) plants.

These mini nuclear CHP plants would provide low carbon heat to homes and businesses through district heating networks as well as electricity to the national grid.

The heat would be sourced from waste steam produced in electricity generation. This was found to be technically feasible and relatively cheap and easy to implement.

The report also outlines the need for a clear policy framework to encourage investor confidence in the sector.

It calls for the UK to raise awareness of regulatory standards and expectations in the next five years and set out a clear statement of intent in relation to SMR development by 2024, with the aim to achieve at least one final investment decision by 2025.

Mike Middleton, ETI’s Nuclear Strategy Manager and report author said: “Creating the right environment for increasing investor confidence is critical if this schedule is to be met; there will be a key role for government in the first five years of any such programme to deliver an SMR policy framework which progressively reduces investor risk.

“If SMR designs can combine standardised production in factories with developer options for heat take-off and cooling systems then there are two benefits. Firstly, these options can increase deployment opportunities which can further reduce unit cost; secondly it is not necessary to reassess the design or reconfigure the factory production process to deliver these options and again this reduces downstream deployment costs.”