UK targets mini atomic plants to revive nuclear energy sector

The UK will commit up to £56 million towards research and development into small-scale atomic power plants as part of a wider £200 million injection to the country’s nuclear energy sector.

The government and the nuclear industry will unveil the initiative in a ‘sector deal’ that aims to help the industry remain price competitive with other sources energy such as renewables, which have experienced rapid cost declines in recent years.

Under the terms of the deal, the UK will provide £56 million towards R&D in small atomic plants called advanced modular reactors (AMRs) which use new cooling systems or fuels.

Advocates of AMRs maintain that the small scale and modular design of these plants should make them less expensive than traditional large reactors, like those being built at Hinkley Point power station in the UK.

Business secretary Greg Clark said: “[The sector deal marks] an important moment for the government and industry to work collectively to deliver the modern industrial strategy, drive clean growth and ensure civil nuclear remains an important part of the UK’s energy future.”

The deal comes as a timely boost to the UK’s nuclear energy industry as it vies with the increasingly cost competitive solar and wind power sectors.

Nonetheless, the government’s recent decision to shelve the £1.3 billion Swansea Bay tidal lagoon project due to spiraling costs could provide a fresh opportunity for the nuclear industry to stake its claim as a more viable energy source than experimental forms of renewable energy in the UK.