European Commission to launch SMR alliance

November 15, 2023, 7:01AMNuclear News
EC commissioner Kadri Simson (second from left) speaks at a European Small Modular Reactor Partnership event in Bratislava. (Photo: @KadriSimson/X)

The European Commission intends to establish early next year an industrial alliance focused on small modular reactors, EC energy commissioner Kadri Simson announced last week.

Speaking November 6 at a European Small Modular Reactor Partnership event in Bratislava, Slovakia—held on the margins of this year’s European Nuclear Energy Forum (ENEF)—Simson stated, “After a long and intense work of preparation, we must now draw conclusions on the opportunity and potential for establishing a European industrial alliance on SMRs. . . . As you are well aware, the legislative framework for a 55 percent [greenhouse gas]–emission reduction by 2030 is almost complete, and the commission will present by January next year its scenarios for carbon emission–reduction targets for 2040. It is clear that to achieve ambitious emission-reduction targets in the next decade, all renewables and low-carbon energy sources will be needed.”

The European Union, Simson noted, is witnessing a renewed interest in nuclear energy, thanks to the technology’s potential for addressing the challenges of decarbonization, security of power supply, and strategic autonomy. She continued, “Beyond conventional nuclear energy development, several member states have shown particular interest for the SMR technologies. These technologies offer possibilities for nuclear energy to contribute to the decarbonization of energy beyond power generation, in applications relying traditionally on fossil fuels. A successful deployment of SMRs by the next decade will be an important and timely milestone on our path to climate neutrality by 2050. I am confident that the EU can have a leadership role in achieving technological maturity for SMRs. This means to me that the first SMRs must be connected to the European electricity grid within a decade at the latest. This must be our goal.”

Returning to the subject the following day in a speech at ENEF, Simson asserted that “everyone involved is ready for a European industrial alliance for small modular reactors,” adding, “I can confirm that the commission will carry out all the preparatory work with a view to launching the industrial alliance in the coming months.”

The focus: According to Nucleareurope (formerly Foratom)—the Brussels-based trade association for the European nuclear industry—the SMR alliance is expected to focus on the following four key areas:

  • Incentivizing the market—addressing the needs of energy-intensive industries and the solutions that SMRs can bring.
  • Financing of SMRs—looking at cost-sharing options as well as financial support for individual projects.
  • Ensuring that the nuclear industry is well equipped—including by strengthening education and training to ensure a skilled workforce and upscaling the involvement of the EU supply chain in the development of SMRs.
  • Supporting innovation, research, and development—identifying what the needs are in order to establish relevant programs and facilities.

“SMRs are expected to bring many benefits to the EU as a whole in terms of helping to decarbonize hard-to-abate sectors, as well as creating jobs and generating economic growth in the EU,” said Yves Desbazeille, director general of Nucleareurope, in response to Simson’s announcement. “The groundwork has been laid by its predecessor, the European SMR pre-Partnership, and we are delighted that the European Commission is now giving its full backing to this key technology of the future.”

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