In a speech to the UK Nuclear Industry Association on 2 December, Greg Hands, Minister of State for Business, Energy and Clean Growth, said 'excellent progress' had been made on the UK’s commitment to reach demonstration of AMRs by the early 2030s with the backing of the £385 million Advanced Nuclear Fund.
“This summer, we published a Call for Evidence to gather views on the government’s preference to support High Temperature Gas Reactors (HTGR) for the AMR Research, Development & Demonstration Programme,” he noted. “Following evaluation of responses received, I’m pleased to announce today that we will focus on HTGRs as the technology choice for the Programme moving forward — with the ambition for this to lead to a demonstration by the early 2030s.”
Hands said the UK continued to support the development of all AMRs, as part of wider activities. He added that, to reach net zero by 2050 “we need to pick up the pace over the next 30 years…achieving a 78% reduction in greenhouse gases and ensuring all the UK’s electricity comes from clean sources by 2035”. This “will require a range of low-carbon technologies - especially new nuclear - to be deployed in large quantities and at speed”.
He stressed the need for “stable, firm, low-carbon power for when the wind doesn’t blow, and the sun doesn’t shine”, adding “net zero needs nuclear, not least because of the recent volatility of global gas prices”. He said the UK was “matching ambition on nuclear with action”, citing the Net Zero Strategy including the £120 million Future Nuclear Enabling Fund, to support the deployment of nuclear projects. “And, in the first half of 2022, we’ll publish a nuclear roadmap setting out deployment plans for more projects.”
Other actions include the new Nuclear Bill setting out the Regulated Asset Base model to encourage private investment into nuclear projects. “To support further investment in nuclear projects, we’re also consulting on classifying nuclear as ‘green investment’ in the UK Taxonomy, which would allow billions to flow into the sector.” He said the government “aims to reach a Final Investment Decision this Parliament on at least one more large-scale project”, noting “we announced up to £1.7 billion in the Spending Review to help deliver this objective and have been in constructive negotiations on the Sizewell C project since January”.
He recalled that the government had also invested £210 million — matched by the company — for Rolls-Royce to develop its design for one of the world’s first SMRs. “In the UK…we’re on a mission for fission projects - big and small - and we’re also on a quest for fusion.”
He added that the government is supporting this by committing £220 million towards the first five-year phase of the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) programme, which aims to build a prototype fusion power plant in the UK by 2040 and is also investing £184 million into “cutting-edge research facilities and infrastructure, to make the UK the best place for fusion innovation”.
He concluded that, in just a year, incredible progress has been made towards achieving net zero. “It is that momentum that we need to build on to realise the inalienable truth that net zero needs nuclear.”