The UK is to commit up to £56m to kick-start research and development into small-scale atomic power plants as part of a £200m funding boost for the nuclear industry focused on driving down costs. The development of a new generation of “mini nuclear plants” is seen as crucial to the future of the industry as it struggles to remain competitive against the rapidly falling costs of renewable power. Supporters argue the small scale and modular design of these plants should make them less expensive than traditional, large reactors, such as those being built by French energy group EDF at Hinkley Point power station in south-west England. Under the terms of the sector deal, the government promises £56m towards R&D for small atomic plants known as advanced modular reactors (AMRs), which use new cooling systems or fuels. Rolls-Royce, the UK engineering group, is seeking to develop SMRs — and has argued its work should be seen as part of a “national endeavour”. Some elements of the sector deal could be used to advance the company’s plans, and it welcomed the agreement as “positive” and said it would work with government on “the next steps”. Financial Times

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