The government has announced up to £56 million in funding to support the development of small modular reactors (SMRs).

Speaking today at the Nuclear Industry Association’s annual conference, energy minister Richard Harrington announced a series of new measures to support the sector, including up to £56 million in research and development funding through a two-stage advanced modular reactor (AMR) project over the next three years.

The first stage will involve up to £4 million for feasibility studies and up to £7 million to further develop the capability of regulators who support and assess advanced technologies.

Subject to the first stage demonstrating “clear value for money”, up to £40 million will be available for research and development projects in the second stage and up to a further £5 million for regulators.

The government has also awarded the UK Atomic Energy Authority £86 million to establish a centre to support innovation and expertise in nuclear fusion.

“As we set out in our industrial strategy, the nuclear sector has a key role to play in increasing productivity and driving clean growth across the country,” said energy minister, Richard Harrington.

“Nuclear is a vital part of our energy mix, providing low carbon power now and into the future so today’s package of new measures will help to boost innovation and provide greater clarity on our future plans.”

At the conference, Harrington also warned it was “naïve and simplistic” to take the view that the plummeting cost of offshore wind power meant nuclear was no longer needed.

The funding announcement was welcomed by the GMB’s national secretary for energy, Justin Bowden, who said SMR’s are “quicker and cheaper to build” and offer much more flexibility as part of an “integrated locally-driven agenda”.

“The announcement on SMRs is positive but government must now drive this agenda and provide further funding and certainty for the nuclear industry if it is to fulfill its obligations to the British public of a safe, secure and reliable power supply,” added Bowden.