The European Commission (EC) has launched an Industrial Alliance to support the development of small modular reactors (SMRs) in Europe by the early 2030s. The announcement came alongside the EC’s assessment for a 2040 climate target for the European Union (EU).

An EC statement said: "The commission is also launching an Industrial Alliance to facilitate stakeholder's cooperation at EU level and to accelerate the deployment of SMRs and ensure a strong EU supply chain, including a skilled workforce. This will leverage EU's manufacturing and innovation capacities to accelerate the deployment of first SMR projects in the EU by early 2030 under the highest standards of nuclear safety, environmental sustainability, and industrial competitiveness."

The EC had announced its intention to launch the Industrial Alliance in November 2023 as a tool to facilitate stronger cooperation and joint action between all interested partners. This came after it established a European SMR pre-Partnership in June 2023, which sought to identify enabling conditions and constraints for the safe design, construction and operation of SMRs in Europe in the next decade and beyond, in compliance with the EU and Euratom legislative frameworks.

The Industrial Alliance will draw up a Strategic Action Plan to identify:

  • Technically mature and commercially viable SMR technologies that could be supported under the alliance;
  • Potential gaps and solutions in the European supply chain for SMRs (including fuel and raw materials);
  • Investment barriers, funding opportunities and new financial blending options to support SMR development;
  • Future needs for research on SMRs and advanced modular reactors (AMRs)
  • Existing skills gaps along the supply chain to be addressed under the Euratom Research and Training Programme, and at national level.

An invitation for alliance membership will be made shortly open to all public and private legal entities which fulfil a set of eligibility membership.

The launch of the Alliance was announced as part of the EC’s the European Commission’s 2040 targets Communication, which indicates that the energy sector is expected to be fully decarbonised just after 2040 thanks to all zero and low-carbon energy solutions, including nuclear.

The EU's 2030 climate target is to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% compared with 1990. Based on its latest impact assessment, the EC recommends a 90% net greenhouse gas emissions reduction by 2040 compared with 1990 levels. The Communication also sets out a number of enabling policy conditions necessary to achieve the 90% target. The EC said these include “the full implementation of the agreed 2030 framework, ensuring the competitiveness of the European industry, a greater focus on a just transition that leaves no one behind, a level playing field with international partners, and a strategic dialogue on the post-2030 framework, including with industry and the agricultural sector”.

The energy sector is projected to achieve full decarbonisation shortly after 2040, "based on all zero and low-carbon energy solutions, including renewables, nuclear, energy efficiency, storage, CCS, CCU, carbon removals, geothermal and hydro".

European nuclear trade body Nucleareurope Director General Yves Desbazeille said: "The European nuclear industry has been at the forefront of innovation and industrial excellence for decades and this Industrial Alliance will help maintain our industry's world class position. However, there are several challenges which need to be tackled to ensure the smooth deployment of SMRs. Therefore, we are delighted that the commission is moving ahead with this alliance in order to work on viable solutions to overcome these challenges."