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Energy
News announcement9 February 2024Directorate-General for Energy

Commission to ally with industry on Small Modular Reactors

The European Commission is establishing a new European Industrial Alliance aiming to accelerate the development, demonstration and deployment of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) in Europe by the early 2030s. Following up on this week’s Communication 'Securing our future: Europe’s 2040 climate target and path to climate neutrality by 2050 building a sustainable, just, and prosperous society', which underlined that all technologies will be needed to reach the EU’s climate neutrality objective by 2050, the Commission launched today a call for membership applications in the SMR Alliance. The Alliance targets a wide range of SMR stakeholders including vendors, utilities, specialised nuclear companies, financial institutions, research organisations, training centres and civil society organisations. The key objective of the Alliance is to reinforce the nuclear supply chain in Europe by leveraging its manufacturing and innovation capacity and strengthening EU cooperation.

Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson said:

'Today's launch of the EU Industrial Alliance on Small Modular Reactors will bring together the technology side and energy companies to make the most of safe and versatile new nuclear technologies. They can contribute on our decarbonisation pathway to complement renewables, and provide baseload energy production for deep electrification, reliable source of heat for industries and urban districts, as well as for low-carbon hydrogen production. Further, the Alliance will facilitate the deployment of the first reactors by the next decade in the countries that choose to do so, in full respect of the highest standards of nuclear safety and environmental sustainability. In short: We want this Alliance to deliver benefits in very practical terms - through full engagement on nuclear safety, using European supply chains, and by boosting innovation for new technologies.'

Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton said:

'As we are facing a race to generate sufficient decarbonised electricity to achieve our climate ambition, nuclear energy, and Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) in particular, has a central role to play. In a context of increasing business competition on SMRs at global level, Europe is promptly responding, capitalising on its strong nuclear competence, innovation, and manufacturing capability. The European Industrial Alliance on SMRs will guide the process for the deployment of the first SMRs in Europe by the early 2030s, creating a strong European supply chain for our climate ambition and the competitiveness of our industry.'

Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Iliana Ivanova, said:

'The EU has been at the cutting edge of nuclear research and innovation for decades. Small and Advanced Modular Reactors hold great potential to help us achieve carbon-neutral future and contribute to European strategic autonomy. This is why we need this Industrial Alliance: it will help steer technological developments, reviving important nuclear value chains in Europe and building a compelling business case that makes SMRs attractive for both public and private investors.'

Today’s terms of reference for the Alliance confirm that the work of the Alliance will focus on

  • reinforcing the European nuclear supply chain by identifying and addressing gaps and promoting a close cooperation among stakeholders
  • supporting SMR project promoters to develop, demonstrate and deploy their projects in the EU market and beyond, by identifying and removing barriers and working together with financial investors, industry and local authorities
  • establishing ways to inform and engage potential industrial users of SMRs, such as energy-intensive industries, hydrogen producers, and urban districts
  • facilitating and coordinating projects to address future research and innovation needs, particularly for Advanced Modular Reactors under the Euratom Research and Training Programme, and by establishing a nuclear skills academy with the support of the Net-Zero Industry Platform
  • promoting public engagement about SMRs by working with relevant civil society organisations and NGOs, as well as cooperating with relevant international bodies to help European SMR projects reach international markets

In combination with other sources of clean energy, SMRs will play a role in achieving the clean energy transition and boosting energy security in Europe in the coming years by helping to decarbonise industry, produce low-carbon hydrogen and provide heat to industry and urban districts.

Compared to the larger, conventional nuclear power plants, SMRs have several advantages - such as shorter construction time schedules, enhanced safety features and a sounder appeal to private investors thanks to their lower initial costs and shorter development timelines.

The Commission has long been contributing to SMR-related research, both by support to research consortia through its Euratom Research and Training Programme on improving nuclear safety and security and by its own in-house scientific service, the Joint Research Centre.

To accelerate the development and deployment of SMRs, the EU will need to further enhance its capacity to assess the safety and impact of new designs and technologies as well as the wide range of possible applications, including beyond the generation of power such as in healthcare. Euratom and national investments will also need to support the development of new nuclear skills and competencies.

Next steps

Together with the call for applications, which will initially run until 12 April 2024, there are 2 events already on the horizon: a dissemination event is planned on 21 March as a side event to the Nuclear Energy Summit, an international event organised by the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the EU and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); and an inaugural General Assembly for the Alliance in late spring.

Background

SMRs are nuclear reactors [< 300 Megawatt electric (MWe)] that are much smaller than conventional, large-size nuclear power plants (>1000 Mwe). This makes them considerably more flexible – in terms of site selection, speed of construction, amount of colling water - and well-suited for use in integrated energy hubs (for example, combined with sometimes intermittent renewable energy). SMRs are suitable for replacing fossil fired plants, allowing to retain and offer new high-skilled job opportunities in areas where these plants would be closed. They are adapted to supply electricity, but also heat for industry and district heating, and for producing hydrogen.

The Commission's industrial alliances are a trusted framework to coordinate and accelerate activities in emerging technologies across the EU, to enable them to develop as efficiently as possible. For instance, the Battery Alliance has played an essential role in ensuring that Europe can meet up to 90% of its demand with batteries produced in Europe by 2030. The European Clean Hydrogen Alliance is also ensuring industrial leadership and accelerating the decarbonisation of industry in line with its climate change objectives.

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Publication date
9 February 2024
Author
Directorate-General for Energy