Small volume nuclear reactors designed by Rolls-Royce could supply a fifth of the UK’s total electricity capacity to homes across England and Wales by the end of the decade, according to new plans announced by an engineer.
Rolls-Royce has prioritized the development of its own proposed small modular reactors (SMRs).
The FTSE 100 engineering giant announced the shortlist after assessing four former nuclear sites and finding them to be stable, large enough to house SMRs and connected to the electricity grid.
The company is competing to secure sites to build about 30 of its so-called mini-nukes, which use existing nuclear technology on a smaller scale than traditional nuclear plants. Each SMR will produce approximately 470 MW of energy for at least 60 years.
Rolls-Royce’s plan, which will offer around 15GW on completion, compares with the UK’s current electricity generation base of 76.6GW, made up of wind, gas, solar and nuclear capacity.
The former nuclear sites shortlisted by Rolls-Royce are owned by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, which is weighing bids from a number of potential SMR developers.
Tom Samson, chief executive of Rolls-Royce SMR, said: “Identifying sites that can host our SMRs is a key step towards our effective deployment – the sooner work can start on site, the sooner we can ensure stable and secure supplies of low carbon nuclear energy from SMRs designed and manufactured in the UK.”
Rolls-Royce SMR and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority they need government approval before the sites can be used, Rolls said.
The company also needs approval from the Office for Nuclear Regulation, the Environment Agency and the Welsh Department of Natural Resources on the reactor design.
An extra level of negotiation may be required for Wylf and Oldbury as they were which Hitachi intended for the development of larger plants, but which has stalled in the meantime.
Rolls-Royce plans to build three SMR factories, including a key facility to make the pressure vessels at the heart of the reactors. The plan is to make most of the components for the SMR in factories, standardize the parts and mass produce them more like a car on an assembly line rather than a building on a construction site.
SMRs are considered attractive because they are theoretically cheaper to build than traditional power plants, which are mostly based on custom designs.
Following approval in the UK, Rolls-Royce SMR, backed by Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund and other private investors, hopes to export the reactors abroad.
David Peattie, chief executive of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, said: “We are working with a number of potential partners to explore the use of land on our estate, while using the NDA’s expertise and experience in the nuclear sector to support the delivery of the UK Government’s energy security strategy. ”