Britain has taken a crucial step towards creating a network of mini reactors that would reduce reliance on foreign money and nuclear technology after Rolls-Royce secured investment to build the world’s first production line.
Following OGN's report in May that Rolls Royce was on the hunt for finance, it's very good news that they have now got the money they need to help make Britain a world leader in renewable energy and power the “green industrial revolution”.
The company has secured the £210m needed to unlock a matching amount of taxpayer funding, which will make it the first “small modular reactors” (SMR) developer to submit its designs to regulators.
It is understood heavyweight financial investors specialising in energy are now thrashing out the final details of their backing to drive work on the so-called “mini nuke” power plants.
SMRs take up about the space of two football pitches (a fraction of the size of a conventional plant) and each mini reactor will generate enough power for 1m homes, and cost about £2bn each to build. This is about a seventh of the output of a conventional nuclear reactor but, since such reactors (like Hinkley Point) cost about £23bn to construct, the £2bn price tag is a bit of a bargain.
New nuclear capacity has been described as vital in ensuring the Government achieves its net-zero emissions target by 2050, and as a good way to help Boris Johnson achieve his levelling-up agenda.
Rolls believes the project could create 40,000 new jobs in regions including Midlands and the North of England by 2050, with plans to install at least 16 plants at existing and former nuclear sites. Rolls also believes that, in time, SMRs may become its most substantial business division.
Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, said: “This is very positive news for the UK nuclear industry. SMRs must play a critical role in our clean energy transition and can open new export markets worth billions of pounds."
Proving SMRs as practical sources of emissions free energy will not only be key to the UK’s net zero target, but could also be a huge money spinner for the country if Britain can perfect the technology first. The global market for SMRs has been estimated as being a potential £450bn.
Meanwhile, nuclear fusion also forms part of the UK government's Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, and it recently announced it was looking for land on which to build its first nuclear fusion power station. UK nuclear fusion firm Tokamak Energy has said it is on course to be the first private company to achieve 100 million-degree plasma temperature, in a big step for commercial fusion energy.
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