Rolls-Royce’s hopes of building 'half price' mini nuclear power stations have taken a significant step forward after Kwasi Kwarteng, the UK Business Secretary, asked government regulators to assess its designs.
Rolls-Royce has raised about £500m to develop the Small Modular Reactors (SMR) reactors, which could help reduce Britain’s reliance on electricity generated from fossil fuels. And, if successful, export the knowledge and expertise around the globe.
Rolls aims to develop a reactor that can largely be made in a factory. Making hundreds of them would significantly reduce development costs as well as making them more flexible and affordable.
Tom Samson, Rolls-Royce SMR chief executive, said entering that process was another major milestone towards its goal of deploying a fleet of small nuclear reactors that can produce affordable, low carbon electricity.
“The UK regulatory process is internationally recognised and respected. We welcome the scrutiny and challenge that goes into the assessment of our nuclear power plant design,” he said.
It wants to start producing the plants in the early 2030s and charge about £1.8bn ($2.35bn) for the 470 megawatt units, which will generate enough to power a city with about 500,000 residents. By comparison, the fully fledged nuclear power station at Hinkley Point, on the Bristol Channel coast of Somerset, England, due to open in 2026, will cost around £23 billion ($30bn) and generate 3,260 megawatts. That makes Rolls Royce's stations substantially cheaper - roughly half the price per megawatt.
Trade body the Nuclear Industry Association said: “This is a vital step forward for British nuclear technology. The UK needs the Rolls-Royce SMR to strengthen our energy security and cut our dependence on gas as we move toward net zero.
“The SMR can also play an essential role in enhancing British industrial capability, creating tens of thousands of jobs, revitalising the nuclear skills base and boosting the green economic recovery.”