Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, said: “This is very positive news for the UK nuclear industry. SMRs must play a critical role in our clean energy transition and can open new export markets worth billions of pounds.
“To realise this potential, however, the Government needs to establish a siting and policy framework by next year to enable the deployment of a fleet of SMRs and capture the promise of a net zero future.”
Although officials are engaging with other businesses on SMRs, one Whitehall source described the Rolls-led consortium as “by far the most advanced”. The UK SMR consortium also includes the National Nuclear Laboratory and Laing O’Rourke, the construction firm.
Ministers are expected to push for the Office for Nuclear Regulation to prioritise assessment of the consortium’s SMR design, while simultaneously driving the planning process to get potential sites.
Sites being targeted for SMRs, which each take up the space equal to about two football pitches, a fraction of the size of a conventional plant, are understood to include disused nuclear sites around the country currently in the care of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.
Tom Samson, chief executive of UK SMR, said the consortium offered a “transformational clean energy solution. We are in the process of securing the funding that will enable the next phase of the SMR development.”
The consortium estimates it will cost £2bn to get to the stage where it can start constructing the first SMR.
Getting the first five operating is expected to cost £2.2bn apiece, with the first hoped to be up and running in the early 2030, but prices will then fall to £1.8bn per plant.
A government spokesman said: “While the Government is committed to supporting the advancement of large, small and advanced nuclear reactors, we can’t comment on specific commercial discussions at this stage.”
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