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Small Modular Reactors

New technologies, such as Small Modular Reactors, are making significant progress and have the potential to play an important role in the integrated energy systems by providing low-carbon electricity and/or heat with a limited footprint.

Though most existing and planned nuclear power plants are large and light water-cooled units, Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) represent a complementary solution to such power plants. SMRs could also contribute to the decarbonisation of hard to decarbonise sectors such as transport, chemical and steel industry, and district heating.

The Commission’s priority is that these new designs under development ensure that nuclear energy is used only with the highest standards of safety, radiation protection for workers and citizens, responsible management of radioactive waste and spent fuel, and a reliable non-proliferation regime, which ensures that nuclear material is not diverted from its intended use.

Benefits and challenges

SMRs present several potential benefits, ranging from improved safety features, such as passive safety systems, better financing options due to reduced construction schedules, lower investment needs, fewer components and smaller plant footprints per unit. For EU countries which choose to include nuclear in their energy mix, SMRs could also be a promising option for replacing old coal power plants and complementing as well as facilitating the increasing penetration of renewables. They can be flexibly used for district heating, desalination, generation of process heat for energy-intensive industries and production of hydrogen.

More facts on SMRs

At the same time, challenges still exist in validating the business case for SMRs, assuring predictable and streamlined licensing processes and frameworks, developing global supply chains to ensure profitability, identifying suitable nuclear sites and achieving a transparent dialogue model between the concerned stakeholders.

EU leadership and strategic independence for SMRs

In June 2021, as part of its continuous support for initiatives to help EU countries decarbonise their energy systems, the Commission organised the first-ever EU workshop on small modular reactors

European SMR Industrial Alliance 

The European Industrial Alliance on SMRs was launched in February 2024. Its primary goal is to accelerate the development, demonstration and deployment of concrete SMR projects in Europe in the early 2030s by

  • identifying the most promising, advanced, safe and cost-effective SMR technologies eligible for support
  • strengthening the European supply chain (including fuel and raw materials)
  • identifying investment barriers, analysing funding opportunities and exploring new financial options for SMR development
  • identifying future needs for research on SMRs and advanced modular reactors, as well as gaps in skills and human-capacity 
  • involving potential end-users such as energy-intensive industries, low-carbon hydrogen producers and municipalities

The alliance’s first general assembly took place on 29-30 May 2024 to establish the governing board and launch the relevant technical and project-based working groups.

Research and training on SMRs

The Commission has also actively supported SMR safety research via the Euratom Research and Training Programme, with an EU contribution of EUR 16 million. New projects for SMRs and advanced modular reactors, with a total budget of EUR 27 million will complement this action already in 2023.

The declaration on EU small modular reactors, signed on 4 April 2023 by the Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel and EU nuclear stakeholders, was prepared as a follow-up to a high-level European nuclear roundtable, held in March 2022. It confirms the EU’s intention to continue to lead research, innovation, education and training for the safety of European SMRs.

SMRs at international level

The EU and the United States share a rich history of mutually beneficial cooperation on nuclear energy and an EU-US high-level forum on SMRs was organised in Brussels in 2019 to examine the challenges and opportunities associated with using SMR technologies, as part of the future energy systems.

To ensure coherence and complementarity of the efforts, the Commission is also maintaining close links with the new IAEA ‘Nuclear Harmonisation and Standardisation Initiative (NHSI)’ and with other relevant initiatives at the level of the OECD-NEA.

Interest in SMRs is growing at international level in the context of discussions about moving to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. The below list includes links to recent SMR publications and platforms.


17 MARCH 2023
Annex: Euratom Research and Training Programme - Work Programme 2023-2025