Rolls-Royce unveils plans to build 16 mini nuclear plants in the UK

Rolls-Royce is pushing for the UK government to provide a multi-billion-pound pot for its plans to build 16 small nuclear reactors across the country.

Pictured: An artist's impression of one of the plants

Pictured: An artist's impression of one of the plants

The engineering giant is part of the UK’s Small Modular Reactor (SMR) Consortium, along with the likes of BAM Nuttall, Jacobs, Laing O’Rourke and the National Nuclear Laboratory.

In a statement this week, the Consortium said it could have the 16 reactors up and running by the end of 2025 if the Government provides funding and planning permission is granted as a matter of urgency. This move would create 6,000 jobs.

Each of the power stations would cost £2bn to deliver provide up to 440MW of capacity. The Consortium has said that they could be online for 60 years.

The Consortium confirmed in the statement that it has signed agreements with Exelon Generation in the US and CEZ in the Czech Republic to deliver key infrastructure.

The UK Government is reportedly planning to allocate at least £1.5bn from central coffers to the scheme as part of Boris Johnson’s ten-point plan for the green recovery. He began unveiling the plan last month but announcements were paused as new lockdown measures were developed and implemented. Announcements are expected to begin again next week.

In its manifesto for the 2019 General Election, the Conservative Party threw its weight behind nuclear fusion, pledging £220m to the sector and setting a 2040 target to bring at least one plant online. This proved controversial given that the related technologies are in their relevant infancy.

Nuclear gap

Six of the UK’s nuclear plants are planning to go offline by 2030. While some are reaching the natural end of their working life, others have reported increased costs in recent years and are predicting further hikes without government support.

At the same time, progress on Hinkley Point in Somerset has been stalled once again due to Covid-19.

Proponents of nuclear power have warned that this will leave a “gap” in low-carbon power generation – particularly given that the UK’s electricity demand is set to rise over the coming decades.

In his keynote speech at edie’s Net-Zero Live on Wednesday (11 November), Conservative MP Bim Afomali, who chairs the All Party Parliamentary Renewable and Sustainable Energy Group (PRASEG), said the Group is urging the Government to “throw its weight” behind nuclear in the same way it has supported offshore wind.

Doing so, he argued, would maintain energy security and reduce costs as the UK brings more renewables online and strives to get to a net-zero energy sector ahead of the 2050 deadline.

But green groups including Greenpeace have argued that the risk of radioactive waste releases and weapons proliferation should not be ignored and that the Government would be better off investing in green hydrogen and geothermal power.

Sarah George


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