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Bidders line up as government launches nuclear small modular reactor competition

The government has launched a competition to find a partner to help bring ‘mini nuclear’ reactors into the UK energy market.

More than 16 firms are set to enter the Department of Energy and Climate Change competition, which aims to identify a preferred technology for small modular reactors (SMRs) to be rolled out in a series of new power plants over the next 15 years.

Companies expected to take part include NuScale, Westinghouse and Bechtel, which have already put their names forward as potential partners.

The government will choose the best SMR design at the end of the competition.

Companies have been given until 6 May to put forward their designs and business cases, with a decision on which companies will make the next round of the competition expected in the autumn.

The launch comes as the Treasury announced it would publish an SMR delivery roadmap later this year to provide clearer timeframes for the development and delivery of the technology in the UK.

This work would be supported by a £250m SMR research fund, announced by the chancellor in November’s Spending Review.

Last September, the DECC opened a consultation to see how many firms would be interested in developing SMR technology in the UK.

Construction News understands that 16 firms put forward initial design plans.

In February, Construction News reported that MPower, a joint venture between Bechtel and nuclear technology specialist BWX Technologies, would be entering the race.

The firm joined nuclear giants NuScale Power and Westinghouse in going public with their intention to bid.

SMRs are seen as a more flexible option for providing nuclear power as they take less time to construct and can be built in a wider variety of locations than traditional plants.

Since 2013, the government has been vocal in its ambition for the UK to be a world leader in the SMR market, which is expected to be worth £250bn-£400bn by 2035.

NuScale Power’s UK and Europe managing director said: NuScale’s SMR answers the particular needs of the UK’s energy market and the wider UK economy, and we intend to participate fully in the government’s competition.

“NuScale modules could be rolling off the production line in British factories and generating power for British homes by the 2020s.

”Exports to other parts of Europe would transform the UK into a hub for this innovative technology.”

A spokesman for Westinghouse said: ”Westinghouse welcomes the news of the Government’s SMR competition launch. With our advanced technology, and our ability to localise manufacture in the UK, we look forward to demonstrating our ability to move the UK from being a buyer to a global provider of nuclear technology.”

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