With enough government backing SMRs could be a competitive alternative to unreliable renewables in the long term. PoliticsHome reporting.
Small modular reactors (SMRs) could be operating in the UK by 2030 and the Government has a crucial role to play in encouraging early investor confidence, according to a new report by the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI).
The report argues that there are economic benefits in deploying SMRs as combined heat and power plants linked to district heating networks. The report, ‘Preparing For Deployment of A UK Small Modular Reactor By 2030’, examines what needs to take place to support the potential first operations of a SMR in the UK.
The report says that a credible integrated schedule can be achieved if action is taken to create investor confidence through the development of a policy framework which progressively reduces risks for an SMR developer.
The detailed study has also re-assessed the technical viability and cost impact of deploying SMRs as Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plants, rather than for just power generation. It again highlights the economic benefits of extracting low carbon heat for supply to district heating networks.
Due to their smaller size and easier siting SMRs offer flexibility and could deliver low carbon heat into cities via hot water pipelines up to 30km in length. This flexibility opens up new potential sites and can help to decarbonise energy use in buildings.
Therefore consideration should be given to the concept of deploying SMRs as “CHP ready”, even if there is no firm local demand for district heating systems at the time of SMR deployment. This is because the additional costs are small and the potential future revenues large, bringing benefits to both consumers and SMR operators.
One of the benefits of SMR technology is that they can be built to a standard design in factories before being assembled on site. This standardisation has the potential to accelerate cost reduction through the economy of multiples.
The ETI report says that a range of locations have the characteristics for potential early deployment of UK SMRs, including a number of sites potentially suitable for a UK First of a Kind SMR.