The European Commission has approved a €300 million state aid grant for Nuward, a French developer of small modular nuclear reactors (SMR), to test its technology with more support expected before the project starts in 2030.
Nuclear: €300 million state aid for French small modular reactors

SMRs vary in power production capacity from 2 to 300 MW, and depending on their size, they can meet very localised demand for electricity or heat in isolated communities or on industrial sites or replace coal-fired and gas power plants. 

With its 300 MW reactor under development, EDF subsidiary Nuward wants to play a part in replacing Europe’s remaining coal-fired power stations.

The company is aiming for the ‘first concrete’ to be poured in 2030, with commissioning before 2035, timing more or less in line with the European Commission’s ambitions.  

Basic design

The Commission commented that with this State aid scheme, approved on Friday (26 April), Nuward is entering the third stage of its five-stage development, focusing on research and development efforts until early 2027. 

This stage involves “going into the design details of all the equipment, all the parts (…) and making a complete model of the power plant”, Nuward explained to Euractiv. 

“At the same time, we make sure that the overall system is coherent and that once all the components have been assembled, they will guarantee correct operation with the expected performance”, the company added.

In other words, the aim of the measure is to test and trial the modules and components of future SMRs to ensure that they can be produced on an industrial scale.

The grants are also aimed at preparing the safety demonstrations required for the project to be approved by the national nuclear safety authorities, the European Commission added. 

€500 million in total

The latest announcement follows a €50 million state aid scheme announced in December 2022, which supported Nuward’s 2nd development stage.

Total public support for the initiative is expected to reach €500 million off the back of French president Emmanuel Macron’s February 2022 ‘Belfort speech’ in which he declared a ‘nuclear renaissance’.  

The company noted, “Thanks to this funding granted by the state for the development of the Nuward SMR, Nuward benefits from support comparable to that of its competitors, particularly American.”

The industry argues that SMRs will unlock significant cost reductions in nuclear energy, and international competition exists between the US, Russia, China and Europe to be a leader in this new technology.

Commission support 

The European Commission has made SMR a key component of its efforts to decarbonise the EU economy by 2050 and is supporting the SMR industrial alliance, which was formally launched in February of this year.

The alliance will bring together key sectoral stakeholders, such as policy-makers and industry and civil society representatives, in line with similar efforts to develop electric batteries, solar energy and hydrogen. 

Other manufacturers are also in the running to deploy SMRs in Europe, such as the American NuScale. It is currently developing a reactor that it would like to see in operation by 2029 in Romania. 

Source: euractiv.com

COMMENT

The best of Tired Earth delivered to your inbox

Sign up for more inspiring photos, stories, and special offers from Tired Earth