Best of British! Rolls-Royce gets green light to roll out new mini nuclear reactors

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The British engineering giant’s mini nuclear reactors, also called small modular reactors (SMRs), are a new type of nuclear innovation seen as a departure from traditional forms of nuclear power. While designs differ in size, they are expected to be around the size of two football pitches but are capable of powering around half a million homes. They are also expected to be easier and more affordable than traditional nuclear power stations, which are costly and take many years to build.

The Government is investing £210million to help develop the innovations, secured by the firm back in November.

And the Government made a point to make this a key feature of the new energy strategy that was unveiled earlier this month.

Rolls-Royce Chief Technology Officer and chairman of the firm’s SMR division Paul Stein has now confirmed that the regulatory process will likely wrap up in mid-2024.

He said: “We are trying to work with the UK Government and others to get going now placing orders, so we can get power on grid by 2029.”

Mr Stein also reportedly said that the company hopes to see SMRs spread all over the UK covered that “not quite everyone” will have “their own small modular reactors in their gardens, but close to it”.

Rolls-Royce is set to start manufacturing parts of SMRs that are the least likely to need changes made within the next few years.

Each 470 megawatt (MW) SMR unit costs £1.8billion and will be built a 10-acre site.

Rolls-Royce SMR CEO Tom Samson said: “The Rolls-Royce SMR remains the fastest route to market for new nuclear deployment in the UK and we welcome this government’s clear commitment to turbocharging nuclear deployment.

“By providing an early commitment and working in series, Rolls-Royce SMRs will be able to contribute to the bold vision set out by the Prime Minister for energy security and decarbonisation.

“Rolls-Royce SMRs offer an affordable, sustainable and secure low carbon future for the UK and an export opportunity to realise the aims of Global Britain if we act now.”

Part of the Government’s £210million investment makes up part of a £500million cash injection to help build the technology.

The plan to put this technology on the market also took a step forward after Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng called on Government regulators to assess the designs of the product.

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He said: “We are ready to deliver in the UK and overseas, working in parallel on siting and funding to ensure power from Rolls-Royce SMRs is online as close to 2030 as possible.”

The company is hoping to develop a reactor that can mainly be manufactured in a factory, mass-producing them to help dramatically slash the development cost and make the innovations cheaper and more flexible.

The SMRs are now poised to begin the generic design assessment process, which Mr Kwarteng has called a “significant step in bringing SMRs into existence”.

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