UPDATED 1 Sept: The EI library in London is temporarily closed to the public, as a precautionary measure in light of the ongoing COVID-19 situation. The Knowledge Service will still be answering email queries via email , or via live chats during working hours (09:15-17:00 GMT). Our e-library is always open for members here: eLibrary , for full-text access to over 200 e-books and millions of articles. Thank you for your patience.
New Energy World magazine logo
New Energy World magazine logo
ISSN 2753-7757 (Online)

Global nuclear SMR project pipeline expands to 22 GW


Artist's impression of SMR design from Rolls-Royce Photo: Rolls Royce
The Rolls Royce SMR design – the company is one of six that have been short-listed in a UK government competition to support the development of innovative SMR technology

Photo: Rolls Royce

The small nuclear reactor (SMR) project pipeline reached 22 GW in 1Q2024, an expansion of 65% since 2021, according to a recent report by Wood Mackenzie.

The report finds that the current project pipeline would require an investment of close to $176bn. ‘The nuclear power market has been gaining momentum as a key strategy to achieving net zero,’ comments David Brown, Director – Energy Transition Service, Wood Mackenzie.


‘While the sector has faced a range of challenges over the last 12 months, especially the cancellation of NuScale’s Clean Power Project, multiple markets across the world are expanding their focus on nuclear SMRs,’ Brown continues.  


‘COP28 also provided a new tailwind for nuclear with a new goal to triple nuclear capacity by 2050. In Wood Mackenzie’s net zero scenario, SMRs would account for 30% of the nuclear fleet. The global focus on net zero means the market for SMRs has widened from utilities to industrial and technology companies. For these sectors, SMRs provide a range of solutions, including around-the-clock carbon-free power, carbon-free industrial heat, and the ability to meet power demand growth long term; the latter is a particular area of focus in the US with increasing demand for high-capacity data centres,’ Brown adds.


The report notes that policy support will be crucial to accelerating projects to final investment decisions. Some regions have put new policies in place that have spurred the recent activity. They are, most notably, the US, the UK and Japan.


In the US, the Inflation Reduction Act provides a 30% investment tax credit (ITC) for a zero-emission advanced nuclear power plant to be implemented after 2025. More ITC incentives include a 10% ITC for domestic content and a further 10% for building an SMR on the site of a retired coal plant.


In Japan, after fierce public opposition, pro-nuclear sentiment has strengthened following the election of Prime Minister Kishida and amid record-high commodity prices in 2022.


In the UK, government targets under its new nuclear roadmap and reactor funding have been set as part of the nation’s path to net zero. The UK has awarded almost £63mn to GE-Hitachi and Holtec International for SMR feasibility analysis.


‘Across the world, governments are stepping up in various ways,’ notes Brown. ‘The recent momentum in SMR announcements is a result of strong public and private partnerships involving both established and new companies in the nuclear sector.’


Concerns around uranium supply availability and rapidly escalating uranium prices present challenges to the nuclear sector as a whole, the report says. In 2023, uranium was the strongest performing commodity, with prices soaring.


‘The uranium market is turning bullish, driven by production shutdowns, potential sanctions on Russian uranium supply, the addition of 8 GW of large-scale new nuclear capacity in 2023, and lifetime extensions of the current nuclear fleet. In turn, this has ignited concerns about uranium supply security across the OECD nations. As a response, there are plans from both governments and the private sector to fund expansions of the uranium supply chain,’ concludes Brown.  


Next week’s issue of New Energy World will feature an article on SMR developments.