Rolls-Royce on track for 2030 delivery of UK SMR

16 February 2021

Rolls-Royce has almost completed the feasibility stage in the development of its UK small modular reactor (SMR) and in May will focus on securing investment, said its chief technology officer, Paul Stein, on 10 February. The technology will undergo the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) process with UK regulators in 2024 and will be ready for grid use five years later, he said.

Speaking to delegates at the Westminster Energy Forum webinar Materiality of Mr Stein highlighted the consortium Rolls-Royce is leading for the UK SMR project. This includes Assystem, Atkins, BAM Nuttall, Jacobs, Laing O'Rourke, National Nuclear Laboratory, Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre and TWI.

Phase 1, said Mr Stein, is now coming to an end. That was the 'feasibility and investability' phase in which, with the UK government, R-R attempted to turn the project from an idea on paper to an investable design. It is now moving into Phase 2, which is a joint investment by the UK government, by the consortium members, and third-party equity coming intohe frame. Phase 2 will be under way in about May of this year, with a view to completing GDA in about 2024, and power on grid in about 2030 for the first SMR.

This is "a realistic and low-risk programme", said Mr Stein, thanks to the construction method and the use of a ‘standardised’ pressurised water reactor. As UK intellectual property, it is a great export opportunity and also a way for the country to meet its own net-zero by 2050 target. By that year, production of the UK SMR could reach "the high 100s to low 1000s" of units, but not necessarily all made by the UK consortium.

"One of the key scaling factors in this design is the use of digital twinning," Stein said. "So, right from the start, we've looked at a hybrid licensing model where initially the UK consortium makes all the power stations but as we get foreign interest … parts can be exported and other parts can be made by those countries that subscribe to the right licensing authority. So the scaling has already been considered as part of the initial design.”

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