The UK government has announced £250m ($378m) funding over the next five years for nuclear research and development including a competition to to identify the "best value small modular reactor design for the UK".

The competition will be launched in the new year, which will "pave the way towards building one of the world’s first small modular reactors in the UK in the 2020s", the Treasury said. Companies including Fluor Corp’s NuScale Power unit, Babcock & WilcoxEnterprises and Toshiba Corp’s Westinghouse unit are developing SMRs which are expected to be quicker to build and easier to deploy than traditional nuclear plants.

Westinghouse has already sought government support for a 225MWe design which it says could rapidly increase or decrease power output to help balance out fluctuations in renewable power.

The UK is doubling funding for the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s (DECC’s) energy innovation programme to £500m over five years, including research into SMRs. "The government’s doubling of investment in DECC’s innovation programme will help position the UK as an international leader in small modular nuclear reactors, and deliver commitments on seed funding for promising new renewable energy technologies and smart grids," a statement said.