Small modular nuclear plants—plans and prospects for the UK
Produced in partnership with Paul Butcher of Herbert Smith Freehills
Small modular nuclear plants—plans and prospects for the UK

The following Energy guidance note Produced in partnership with Paul Butcher of Herbert Smith Freehills provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Small modular nuclear plants—plans and prospects for the UK
  • What are small modular reactors (SMRs)?
  • The UK's position
  • Planning and Regulation

What are small modular reactors (SMRs)?

The term 'SMR' is used interchangeably to mean 'small modular reactor' or 'small and medium-sized reactors'. Both are advanced smaller-scale nuclear reactors with a capacity of between 300–700 megawatts (MW(e))—one-tenth of Hinkley Point C, the nuclear power station being developed in Somerset, England.

SMRs are factory-built and brought to site for installation, reducing siting costs and construction time from five to eight years (for conventional reactors) to as little as 18 to 24 months. Additional units or modules can be added over time as and when required to build a larger nuclear power plant. SMRs can be transported by truck, rail or barge, and are therefore expected to require fewer structures, systems and components than large-scale nuclear reactors. Designs include water-cooled reactors, gas cooled reactors and liquid-metal cooled reactors with fast neutron spectrum. SMRs can be placed below ground level, providing resistance to natural or man-made threats and could be argued to offer a greater level of safety and reliability than conventional large-scale reactors.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has recognised the potential for SMRs to enhance global security of supply and the World Nuclear Association (WNA) anticipates that SMRs will eventually replace fossil fuels. As of 2014, there were 45 SMR designs under development for application and four reactors under construction worldwide. The

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