Energy secretary Claire Coutinho made the announcement in her speech to the Conservative conference

The energy secretary has announced the six winners of the government’s small modular reactor (SMR) competition.

Firms on the list will be invited to bid for government contracts later this year, with the ultimate winners set to be announced next spring.

EDF, GE-Hitachi, Holtec, NuScale, Rolls Royce and Westinghouse Electric have all been chosen for the next stage of the process.

Unlike conventional reactors, SMRs are smaller and made in factories, which the government hopes could enable quicker and cheaper delivery.

Developing the technology forms a major element of the government’s ambition for a quarter of all UK electricity to come from nuclear power by 2050.

In a speech this morning at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, energy secretary Claire Coutinho emphasised her party’s nuclear history, claiming all the UK’s currently operational facilities began their life under Conservative governments.

“We are boosting our long term resilience and we’ll set out our nuclear roadmap this autumn,” she said.

“A crucial element of this will be how we deploy the exciting new technology of small modular nuclear reactors.

“I’m therefore pleased to announce today the six companies we have shortlisted to build these reactors.”

The chosen designs are those considered by Great British Nuclear – the government-backed body driving nuclear projects forward – the most able deliver operational SMRs by the mid-2030s.

For unsuccessful companies, the next opportunity could be the government’s consultation on alternative routes to market for nuclear technologies which is due to be launched soon.

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Coutinho used the rest of her conference speech to draw a hard line between her party’s approach to net zero and the Labour Party’s, for whom she said net zero had “become a religion”.

“Its immoral to put forward policies that will impoverish people here when emissions are rising abroad,” she said, pointing to developing countries like China.

“Uxbridge showed us what happens when you tax people for using their cars without thinking about how they would be able to get around, otherwise”.

She said the party would change planning rules to make it easier to install solar panels on industrial rooftops, warehouses and car parks, in order to protect the countryside, and that they would make it “financially easier” for people to change their boilers” through “choice not coercion”.