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Bechtel pulls out of mini-nuclear development

Bechtel is to pull out of small modular reactor development, the US engineering giant has confirmed.

The company said it would no longer be attempting to create its own SMR reactor after it was unable to find investment for its programme, or a utility company that would provide a site.

Bechtel’s SMR aspirations were as part of mPower, a joint venture with energy giant Babcock & Wilcox.

The team formed in 2011 with the aim of developing the world’s first commercially viable SMR plant in Tennessee by the early 2020s, but the project fell through due to lack of funding.

A spokeswoman for Bechtel said: “Building a new reactor programme through the design, engineering and regulatory process is a very complex and expensive proposition.

“It needs a utilities owner with an identified location and an investor willing to wait a significant period of time for a return, and unfortunately these were not available to take mPower further at this stage.”

Bechtel will take itself out of the government’s SMR reactor design competition.

In March 2016 the government launched its £250m SMR competition which set out to identify the preferred reactor technology to be rolled out across the UK over the next 15 years.

The Bechtel team was listed as one of the 33 parties to have made it past the first round of the competition, including engineering firms such as Atkins and contractors such as Costain.

Alongside firms such as Westinghouse and NuScale Power, the mPower JV was one of the companies capable of developing the technology after its reactor design was recommended for “further government investigation” by the National Nuclear Laboratory in 2014.

The competition has stalled ever since, with sources telling Construction News that they have been largely left in the dark by the government over the next steps.

The Bechtel spokeswoman said: “Bechtel is a strong advocate of small modular reactors, which we believe could play a key role in delivering clean, safe and secure energy supplies for the UK.”

Despite removing itself from the development of SMR reactor technology, the company said it would still be interested in being involved in the construction of future SMR plants around the world.

Construction News has contacted Babcock & Wilcox for comment.

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