The Small Modular Reactor tech offers the potential to deliver nuclear power at a low cost and support decarbonisation.
Luxury automobile maker Rolls-Royce has set up a new Rolls-Royce Small Modular Reactor (SMR) business to deliver the next generation of low cost, low carbon nuclear power technology. The firm aims to ensure a decarbonisation solution that will be available to the UK grid in the early 2030s.
Small modular reactors (SMRs) are advanced nuclear reactors that have a power capacity of up to 300 MW(e) per unit, which is about one-third of the generating capacity of traditional nuclear power reactors. Thus, SMRs can produce a large amount of low-carbon electricity.
For this business, Rolls-Royce Group, BNF Resources UK Limited and Exelon Generation Limited will invest £195m across a period of around three years. The funding will also enable the business to secure grant funding of £210 million from UK Research and Innovation funding, first announced by the UK Prime Minister in ‘The Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution’.
One of the challenges to accelerating access to energy is infrastructure – limited grid coverage in rural areas – and the costs of grid connection for rural electrification. It is estimated that a single power plant should represent no more than 10 per cent of the total installed grid capacity. In areas lacking sufficient lines of transmission and grid capacity, SMRs can be installed into an existing grid or remotely off-grid, as a function of its smaller electrical output, providing low-carbon power for industry and the population.
Nine-tenths of an individual Rolls-Royce SMR power plant will be built or assembled in factory conditions and around 80% could be delivered by a UK supply chain – a unique offering in energy infrastructure in the UK. Much of the venture’s investment is expected to be focused in the North of the UK, where there is significant existing nuclear expertise.
A single Rolls-Royce SMR power station will occupy the footprint of two football pitches and power approximately one million homes. It can support both on-grid electricity and a range of off-grid clean energy solutions, enabling the decarbonisation of industrial processes and the production of clean fuels, such as sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) and green hydrogen, to support the energy transition in the wider heat and transportation sectors.
Warren East, Rolls-Royce CEO adds, “the SMR programme is one of the ways that Rolls-Royce is meeting the need to ensure the UK continues to develop innovative ways to tackle the global threat of climate change. With the Rolls-Royce SMR technology, we have developed a clean energy solution which can deliver cost competitive and scalable net zero power for multiple applications from grid and industrial electricity production to hydrogen and synthetic fuel manufacturing.”
Sean Benson, Director of BNF Capital Limited commented, “Following reviews of numerous proposals we found that this project, featuring a highly experienced team was the most realistic, affordable and scalable solution for provision of carbon-free baseload and alternative power requirements.”
Ralph Hunter, Chief Operating Officer of Exelon Nuclear Partners and Vice President of Exelon Generation commented, “This partnership exemplifies our commitment to investing in clean energy technologies that will create a more sustainable future. 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.”