The UK SMR (Photo: Rolls-Royce)Roll-Royce has announced that following the raising of £195 million in equity funding, its Small Modular Reactor business has now been established. Its purpose is to bring forward and deliver at scale the next generation of low cost, low carbon nuclear power technology.

Rolls-Royce Group, BNF Resources UK Ltd and Exelon Generation Ltd will invest £195m across a period of around three years. That commitment will enable the business to secure a grant of £210 million from UK Research and Innovation funding, a mechanism first announced by the UK government in its ‘Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution’. 

R-R says that the business, which will continue to seek further investment, will now proceed rapidly with a range of parallel delivery activities, including entry into the UK Generic Design Assessment (GDA) process and the identification of sites for manufacturing facilities for the modules that enable on-site assembly of the power plants. Discussions will also continue with the UK government on identifying the delivery models that will enable long-term investment in the technology, for which it sees enormous potential, through direct sales and licensing, in a world market for SMRs estimated at 79 GWe by 2040. Rolls-Royce projects that its first plant will be up and running by 2030.

Warren East, Rolls-Royce CEO commented: “With the Rolls-Royce SMR technology, we have developed a clean energy solution that can deliver … net zero power for multiple applications from grid and industrial electricity production to hydrogen and synthetic fuel manufacturing. The business could create up to 40 000 jobs, through UK deployment and export enabled growth.”

Tom Samson, CEO, Rolls-Royce SMR, said: “Rolls-Royce SMR has been established to deliver a low cost, deployable, scalable and investable programme of new nuclear power plants. Our transformative approach to delivering nuclear power, based on predictable factory-built components, is unique and the nuclear technology is proven.”

Ralph Hunter, COO of Exelon Nuclear Partners and vp, Exelon Generation, commented, “We believe that small modular reactors could become a crucial part of the world’s clean energy mix and we are confident that, as an operational partner, we can help develop, deploy and operate a fleet of world-class SMRs.”

Achieving a low-cost technology

In February this year R-R announced the successful conclusion of its ‘feasibility and investability’ study. It was facing the conundrum of how to create affordable energy, and more of it, with a lower carbon footprint. It believes it has solved the problem with its design for a low cost, low carbon, scalable power plant that employs proven nuclear technology, a repackaged ‘standardised’ pressurised water reactor, coupled with what it calls ‘a unique factory-made module manufacturing and on-site assembly system’ that can be installed and commissioned quickly on site, and at lower project risk. Everything in the power station design is directed at reducing cost. 90 % of an individual power plant will be built or assembled in factory conditions and around 80% could be delivered by a UK supply chain.

R-R stresses that the concept is a power station, not a nuclear reactor. It was originally conceived as a 440 MW unit, but R-R has found a way of getting 470 MWe out of the core. Each UK SMR is projected to cost GBP1.8 billion (capex) and produce power at GBP40-60/MWh over 60 years.

Photo: The UK SMR (Photo: Rolls-Royce)