Low-cost nuclear challenge

Small modular reactor plant

This challenge aims to develop a compact, standardised nuclear power station product based around a UK-designed Small Modular Reactor (SMR), using modern mass production methodology.

This innovative approach means that generators can be built quickly by the UK supply chain, enabling new SMRs to be deployed in the UK by the early 2030s. These units will be capable of producing cost-competitive low-carbon electricity, creating significant export opportunities for UK businesses.

Small modular reactors

These small power stations will create low-cost, low-carbon electricity for up to 60 years. Each unit built will produce 440 megawatt of electricity each hour, which is enough to power 450,000 homes and more than 62,000 electric cars.

SMRs have lower capital costs because their smaller size means they can be manufactured in pre-tested modular sections in dedicated factories and assembled on site with greater efficiency. This new approach can reduce construction times so that essential electrical energy is delivered to the UK grid faster.

Progress so far

We have awarded £18 million in ISCF funding to a UK-based consortium led by Rolls-Royce, with matched funding of £18 million from industry. The consortium will develop a concept design with the first phase due to be concluded early 2021.

A second larger follow-on phase is planned to form part of a greater award from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. In total this will be worth in excess of £500 million in a joint investment with the private sector – subject to future approvals and a final decision to make a public investment.

Next steps

A second £215 million investment from the UK government will further develop the concept reactor design to a stage where it can attract private investors and help establish the UK as an international leader in SMR manufacturing.

This large investment will be boosted by a £300 million investment from industry partners.

In return, the UK SMR programme will:

  • return £52 billion of value to the UK economy by 2050 if a full fleet of 16 power stations is built
  • generate a £250 billion export market with job creation of up to 40,000 high-value jobs
  • rejuvenate UK manufacturing communities in the north of England and north Wales.

Read the news announcement: UK government invests £215 million into small nuclear reactors

Further information

This challenge aligns with the Nuclear Sector Deal (2018) and government’s Advanced Nuclear Technologies framework, which can provide the supporting policy framework for encouraging new nuclear technologies.

The partners in the consortium are:

  • Rolls Royce
  • Assystem
  • Atkins
  • BAM Nuttall
  • Laing O’Rourke
  • National Nuclear Laboratory
  • Jacobs
  • The Welding Institute (TWI)
  • Nuclear AMRC.

Read more about UKRI’s business funding opportunities and networking initiatives.

Last updated: 24 May 2021

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