Nuclear power grew massively between 1970 and 2000 but the sector lost market share in 17 of the 20 years to 2020. High profile projects have run over budget and behind schedule, including Hinkley Point C (UK), Flamanville (FR), Olkiluoto (FI) and Vogtle (US). Large projects have become beyond the reach of most participants in liberalised energy markets and investment has largely flowed to cheaper alternatives, namely coal, gas, hydro, wind and solar. Small Modular Reactors are the great hope for the nuclear power sector. While traditional gigawatt-scale nuclear technologies have strived for economies of scale, proponents of SMRs aim to achieve cost savings through the mass production of, as the name suggests, small modular units. The engineering, economic and regulatory hurdles to bringing SMRs to market as a commercially attractive product are immense, especially in the context of strong competition from renewable energy and storage solutions. Some pilot SMR plants may be operational by the end of the 2020s, but maturation, commercialisation and market acceptance through the 2030s will be modest and SMRs will at best play a very small role in 2040. (For the purposes of this prediction, we mean serially produced units of 450 MW or less largely manufactured offsite in a factory setting.)
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