Scaling Success: Navigating the Future of Small Modular Reactors in Competitive Global Low-Carbon Energy Markets

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The report describes SMRs as vital for achieving net zero by the middle of the century

Although the concept of Small Modular Reactors (SMR) has been gaining traction across the world for quite a while, the overall progress in the sector over the last 10-15 years has been modest.

Whilst evidence is mounting that SMRs as part of the global nuclear fleet are vital for achieving net-zero by the middle of the century, the emerging SMR sector is facing a complex interplay of technological, economic, and geopolitical factors that influence, and to some extent constrain, the technology adoption and scalability.

This report identifies and assesses the top 25 SMR projects that, due to a combination of external business and internal technological performance drivers, are more likely to be deployed and secure a significant market share by mid-century. If current trends persist, it is likely that more than half of the global SMR installed capacity by 2050 will be concentrated in 6 to 8 first-mover designs.

To keep OECD vendors competitive, governments should consider augmenting their supply-side support with robust demand-side boosters. These boosters should directly target viable areas of SMRs’ application, such as replacing baseload coal-fired power plants and diesel off-grid generation, through specific support mechanisms like

  1. feed-in tariffs
  2. contracts for difference
  3. power purchase agreements, and so on.

Efforts should be strengthened to streamline licensing and prevent licensing ‘bottlenecks’ and extend export finance options. OECD stakeholders should foster competitive global alliances enabling SMR developers to offer integrated 'plant-as-a-service', ‘one stop shop’ options matching the Russian value proposition. 

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