EU to launch industrial alliance for small nuclear

The European Commission is launching an industrial alliance to promote the development of small modular reactors (SMRs).

“The Commission will carry out all the preparatory work with a view to launching the Industrial Alliance in the coming months,” Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson told the European Nuclear Energy Forum in Bratislava.

Small-scale nuclear power stations are theoretically quicker and cheaper to build than large counterparts because they will be standardised designs that can manufactured at scale and shipped to the site.

There are no commercial SMRs in operation at present, but several projects are planned around the world. US company NuScale Power has an agreement  with Romania’s Nuclearelectrica to build a cluster of six SMRs on the site of a former coal plant, which could be deployed in 2029, for example.

Those plans are part of Project Phoenix, a US plan to replace coal fired power plants with SMRs, with projects in Czechia, Slovakia and Poland also in line to receive support for feasibility studies.

European countries remain divided over nuclear energy, but advocates say SMRs could be used in areas such as district heating, industry, and hydrogen production, where other low-carbon alternatives are not viable.

“There is potential for accelerating the penetration of renewables, and decarbonising hard-to-abate sectors,” Simson said.

“These technologies can also keep people in jobs in the energy sector where other ones might be disappearing.”

She said the conversation around nuclear energy in Europe had shifted in recent years, in response to concerns around the security and affordability of power supply, the EU’s climate goals, and the need for “technical leadership and strategic energy autonomy”.

The industrial alliance is expected to focus on financial support for SMEs, strengthening training, supporting research and innovation, and addressing the needs of energy-intensive industries.