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Rolls Royce seeks green light to build 16 small nuclear power stations in UK

Published November 20, 2020

Rolls Royce seeks green light to build 16 small nuclear power stations in UK

Rolls-Royce has urged the UK government to permit it to build 16 small nuclear power stations over the next 20 years. 

Engineered, designed, and manufactured in the UK, each ‘small modular reactor’ (SMR) will provide 440MW of electricity, enough to power 450,000 homes for 60 years.  

The first SMR could be operational within 10 years of the first order, with each factory able to produce two units per year.  

“The world has been very slow to fund new nuclear technology,” said Nick Fedson, a sustainability analyst at Alfa Energy. “There haven’t been any new commercial designs for nuclear power stations for decades, so SMRs are an innovation that is overdue. Nuclear energy is the only energy generation technology humans have ever deployed at scale that has gotten more expensive over time. SMRs hope to reverse that trend. Furthermore, if permitted, this will allow nuclear plants to be built for the first time ever without government subsidies.” 

Rolls Royce, as lead member of the UK SMR consortium, estimates the work would create 6,000 regional UK jobs within the next five years and a further 34,000 long-term jobs by the mid-2030s.  

The project would have three benefits, the consortium claims. Firstly, it would help the UK meet its net zero commitments by supporting the decarbonisation of transport and providing low-carbon energy to produce synthetic aviation fuels and hydrogen.  

Secondly, the power stations would stimulate regional industry. Up to 80% (by value) of the power station components will be made in factories in the Midlands and North of England.  

Thirdly, the power stations would boost improve UK exports. As the world’s leading economies look to decarbonize, the total export potential by 2050 for the UK is expected to be at least £250 billion.  US power giant, Exelon Generation, has agreed to pursue the potential for it to operate compact nuclear power stations both in the UK and internationally. Czech Republic power entity CEZ, is looking at how it could use SMRs. Turkey is carrying out a a feasibility study for domestic use.  

The UK SMR consortium is comprised of Assystem, Atkins, BAM Nuttall, Jacobs, Laing O’Rourke, National Nuclear Laboratory, Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, Rolls-Royce and TWI.