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UK government announces funding for modular reactor development


The UK government's Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said Thursday that it is making up to GBP44 million ($59.01 million) of funding available to nuclear development companies to establish an advanced modular reactor feasibility and development program.

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BEIS defined AMRs as a broad group of advanced nuclear reactors. "AMRs differ from conventional reactors, which use pressurised or boiling water for primary cooling," it said.

BEIS added that AMRs "aim to maximize the amount of off-site fabrication and can target generating low cost electricity, increased flexibility in delivering electricity to the grid and increased functionality."

BEIS said the funding would be available in an initial tranche of GBP4 million in the form of multiple grants of up to GBP300,000 each to various AMR developers, who would use the funding to "undertake a series of feasibility studies for AMR designs."

BEIS said competition for the funding grants opens Thursday and will close February 14. Successful applicant organizations will then be informed March 30.

A second round of funding with a total value of up to GBP40 million will subsequently be made available "subject to government approval," but BEIS did not provide full timing for this second phase. BEIS in the statement also did not clarify the relationship between the AMR funding round announced and the ongoing small modular reactor competition announced by then UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne in March 2016.

Almost 40 "expressions of interest" were submitted for this competition by various reactor manufacturers and utilities including NuScale Power, Rolls-Royce, China General Nuclear Power Corp. and Westinghouse.

The original timeline for the SMR competition is significantly delayed and several deadlines set by the government have already been missed.

In a separate statement Thursday, BEIS said it will support early access to regulators to "build the capability and capacity needed to assess and licence small reactor designs and will establish an expert finance group to advise how small reactor projects could raise private investment in the UK."

A further GBP86 million was also announced Wednesday in the BEIS statement for "fusion research to set up a national fusion technology platform at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy in Oxfordshire."

--Oliver Adelman,
--Edited by Jonathan Fox,