UK recommits to Sizewell as SMR competition launched

The UK government’s newly established Great British Nuclear (GBN) is launching a competition to provide funding support to innovative nuclear power solutions based around small modular reactors (SMRs).

According to the government, GBN will deliver “rapid expansion of nuclear power at an unprecedented scale and pace”, describing the initiative as “a massive revival of nuclear power”.

From today, companies can register their interest with GBN to participate in the competition, as the government looks to “partner with the nuclear industry and jointly spearhead the future of nuclear technologies”.

The government also said it “remains committed to mega projects of Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C”.

“Today, as we open Great British Nuclear and the competition to develop cutting-edge small modular reactor technology, which could result in billions of pounds of public and private sector investment, we are seeing the first brush strokes of our nuclear power renaissance,” said Energy Security Secretary Grant Shapps.

Julia Pyke, joint managing director for Sizewell C, welcomed the announcement as “another big vote of confidence” in the project.

However, opponents of the plans have criticised the latest announcement. “No 'vote of confidence' can help Sizewell C unless it has a big fat cheque attached, and the money announced today - which is all earmarked for other projects - is, in the context of expensive nuclear energy, chicken feed,” said a statement from the Stop Sizewell C group.

Recently, Sizewell C critic and professor of energy policy at the University of Greenwich, Stephen Thomas, published a report warning that the regulated asset base (RAB) model being used to finance the Sizewell project would “place heavy costs and risks on consumers”.

He also argued that SMRs are “a long way from being commercially available and the claims for them being cheaper than large reactors are not credible”.