U.K. requests input on HTGR potential

August 2, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News

The U.K. government last week issued a “call for evidence” inviting stakeholders to weigh in on its choice of the high-temperature gas reactor for Britain’s £170 million (about $236 million) advanced modular reactor (AMR) demonstration program. The deadline for input on the government’s selection is September 9.

According to the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy, the key objective of the AMR program is to demonstrate high-temperature heat production that can be used for low-carbon hydrogen production, process heat (for industrial and domestic use), and cost-competitive electricity generation in time for an AMR to support the government’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. The target for enabling an AMR demonstration is the early 2030s.

The contestants: The HTGR (including the very-high-temperature gas reactor, or VHTGR) is one of the six main AMR technologies reviewed by the Nuclear Innovation and Research Office in its Advanced Modular Reactors Technical Assessment, the others being the sodium-cooled fast reactor, the supercritical water-cooled reactor, the gas-cooled fast reactor, the lead-cooled fast reactor, and the molten salt reactor. The HTGR, the assessment concluded, has the greatest potential to support the United Kingdom’s net-zero pledge.

Among its virtues, HTGR technology produces greater output temperatures—700°C–950°C—which, according to the assessment, “provide for greater versatility in the applications that [HTGRs] could potentially support to supply to a heat and hydrogen economy.”

No net zero without nuclear: “While renewables like wind and solar will become an integral part of where our electricity will come from by 2050, they will always require a stable low-carbon baseload from nuclear,” said Anne Marie Trevelyan, U.K. minister of state for energy. “That is why, alongside negotiations with the developers of Sizewell C in Suffolk, we are pressing ahead with harnessing new and exciting advanced nuclear technology. Advanced modular reactors are the next level of modern nuclear technology and have the potential to play a crucial role not only in tackling carbon emissions, but also in powering industry and driving forward Britain’s economic growth, as we build back greener.”

Noteworthy: Also announced last week by the U.K. government is the piloting of the Advanced Nuclear Skills and Innovation Campus, which is being developed by the National Nuclear Laboratory. “Located at one of our existing cutting-edge laboratories on the Springfields site,” said Paul Howarth, chief executive officer of the NNL, “this new pilot campus will be a focal point for collaboration between industry and academia and help unlock vital scientific advancements.”

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