Rolls-Royce and its partners are planning to build between 10 and 15 mini nuclear reactors on former nuclear sites, potentially including those located at Wylfa in Wales or next to Sellafield in Cumbria, by 2029. Each new nuclear SMRs will be a quarter the size of a conventional Nuclear Power reactor like the EPRs at Hinkley Point C. Each will cost around £1.8bn and will generate enough electricity to power a city the size of Leeds for sixty years, according to Rolls-Royce. The stations are expected to create 40,000 jobs and bring up to £52bn by 2050, and potentially up to £250bn in exports, to the UK economy. They are therefore hoping the Government will invest £200million to aid the development of the technology.
The consortium, lead by Roll-Royce and including Atkins, BAM Nuttall and Wood, has been working on the development of a compact power station, build up with standard modules, that can be transported and assembled on site reducing construction costs and time-scales significantly, the company told the BBC.
Rolls-Royce chief technology officer Paul Stein told the BBC: “The trick is to have prefabricated parts where we use advanced digital welding methods and robotic assembly and then parts are shipped to site and bolted together,” adding that this approach reduces costs resulting in cheaper electricity.
Rolls-Royce said: “Our world needs more low-carbon power than ever. So we’re leading a UK consortium to develop an affordable power plant that generates electricity using a small modular reactor – an intelligent way to meet our future energy needs.
Rolls-Royce added: “The certainty behind our UK SMR technology is the foundation of a sound business case for owners, operators, utilities and governments. Knowing build costs and the price of the electricity generated makes nuclear energy an option for those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford it.”
The nuclear SMRs could be part of the UK strategy to cut carbon emissions and are fresh air for the nuclear industry, which has faced many challenges recently due to the reduction in cost of renewables and antinuclear protesters.