Following the receipt of more than £450 million from the government and investors, Rolls-Royce jobs will proceed with a multibillion-pound plan to roll out a new breed of mini nuclear reactors.
The engineering firm will form a joint venture with investors BNF Resources and the US generator Exelon Generation to develop small modular nuclear reactors, or SMRs, with a joint investment of £195 million to fund the plans over the next three years.
The government will match the consortium’s investment, which is set to receive a £50 million second phase boost from Rolls-Royce, with £210 million to help roll out the mini nuclear reactors as part of the government’s green 10-point plan to kickstart the green economy over the next decade.
Ministers hope that the new generation of SMRs will be more cost-effective and faster to build than traditional large-scale nuclear reactors, such as the 3,200-megawatt Hinkley Point C project, which face enormous construction jobs risks and are prone to spiraling costs and delays.
The Hinkley Point C reactor was expected to cost £18 billion when it was first proposed. Still, the cost has risen to around £23 billion at the Somerset site as EDF and ministers struggled to agree on a new funding framework for a successor project at Sizewell C in Suffolk.
Rolls-Royce has promised to “harness decades of British engineering, design and manufacturing knowhow” to roll out the first of its mini reactors, which are based on a similar technology used to propel nuclear submarines.
Each of the first batch of reactors is expected to have a generation capacity of 470MW, or enough to power the equivalent of 1.3 million UK homes, and will cost around £2 billion on average, far less than the price per MW sought by developers of large-scale nuclear reactors.
About a fifth of UK electricity is generated by 13 nuclear reactors. Still, more than half of the country’s 7.8GW of nuclear capacity is set to retire by 2025, leaving a looming gap in electricity supplies and the risk of increased reliance on gas power plants.
Tom Samson, the Rolls-Royce SMR consortium chief executive, said the venture was established to “deliver a low cost, deployable, scalable and investable program of new nuclear power plants” to help the UK meet its net-zero targets.
Samson added that the approach would be based on “predictable factory-built components” and proven technology to create an “investable” nuclear option. Ultimately, the consortium hopes to build on an initial run of five SMRs, the first of which could go online by 2031, to create a multibillion-pound stable of 16 SMRs around the country.
Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, described the shift to SMRs as “a once in a lifetime opportunity for the UK to deploy more low carbon energy than ever before and ensure greater energy independence.”
He added that the SMR program would “offer exciting opportunities to cut costs and build more quickly” and would help to cut the UK’s reliance on fossil fuels while creating jobs and a new homegrown industry.
“Not only can we maximize British content, create new intellectual property and reinvigorate supply chains, but also position our country as a global leader in innovative nuclear technologies we can potentially export elsewhere,” he said.
Source: The Guardian