Treasury will reportedly not sign off on investment until technology approved by regulators

A funding deal for the first fleet of mini nuclear reactors may not materialise for another 12 months, to the dismay of domestic leaders in the technology. 

The government made small modular reactors a central element of its plans to generate 24GW of energy from nuclear by 2050, but according to The Times there is significant uncertainty in Whitehall over the scale and state of investment plans. 

Rolls-Royce small modular reactor

Rolls Royce is currently deciding between sites in Teesside, Deeside and Sunderland for its first SMR

Rolls Royce, which has been among the UK’s leaders in developing SMR, has called for ministers to enter funding talks and begin placing orders, seeking an initial commitment for four SMRs at a cost of nearly £2bn each. 

But the Treasury will reportedly not sign off on any orders until the technology has approval from the Office for Nuclear Regulation, which is not expected until 2024. 

The government has already invested £210m into Rolls Royce’s SMR business – which, in conjunction with Atkins, has created designs for a 470MW reactor – but the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is reportedly still assessing whether the firm’s competitors might offer more viable alternatives. 

Rolls Royce wants to begin building factories and recently announced three shortlisted locations for its proposed factory

Consortium chair Paul Stein said: “We stand ready to upscale SMR as soon as we get the green light. We’re confident our design will bring the lowest cost of energy, the lowest risk, and be game changing for British jobs and exports. 

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“It’s not just procurement of SMRs that is at stake, but our energy security, our national prosperity and the development of a home-grown design which will re- industrialise our nation. We trust that whatever process the government follows will reach this same view and we can proceed with pace.” 

A BEIS source said: “It is clear the way to shore up this country’s energy security is to achieve a pipeline of new nuclear. The government [is] committed to .. establishing and backing GBN.”