Rolls-Royce secures funds for mini nuclear plants – each capable of powering a million homes
The Government has thrown its weight behind a Rolls-Royce-led project to build mini nuclear reactors.
Ministers have signed off on the plan to develop a fleet of small modular reactors (SMRs) to help Britain go green and avert a power crisis in the early 2030s.
Each plant will be around the size of two football pitches – around a tenth of the size of a normal station – and can power one million homes.
An artist’s impression of a Rolls-Royce small modular reactor. The government has agreed to fund the project to help Britain go green and avert a power crisis in the early 2030s
The project, which has been in the works for years, is the first state commitment to building new nuclear stations since Theresa May signed off on Hinkley Point C in 2016 when she was prime minister.
Although ministers are in talks to build a new site at Sizewell in Suffolk, this has not yet been finalised.
Rolls and two other firms, BNF Resources and Exelon Generation, have agreed to put £195m into the project over the next three years.
This will unlock £210million in grants from the UK Research and Innovation Fund. But the business will also be looking for private financing – and the Mail understands millions more in funding will be announced in the coming days.
Nuclear power has been a key pillar of recent Government pledges to be net zero by 2050 and to kick off a ‘green industrial revolution’, which Boris Johnson laid out in a ten-point plan last year.
The SMR project is estimated to create around 40,000 regional jobs by 2050. Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: ‘This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the UK to deploy more low-carbon energy than ever before.
‘Not only can we maximise British content, create new intellectual property and reinvigorate supply chains, but also in our position as a global leader in innovative nuclear technologies we can potentially export elsewhere.’
Other countries, such as the Czech Republic, have already flagged their interest in buying their own SMRs.
A major stumbling block for new nuclear projects has been the drawn-out process of securing funding and planning permission, which can often take a decade.
The new business and the Government want to squeeze this into five years and to apply for planning permission, sign-off on the designs and procuring funding simultaneously, though it is not clear yet how the financing will work.
Once this has been achieved, it is expected to take another five years to build the first plant, which would start up in 2031. Then it is expected to take around three years to put up subsequent SMR stations.
The Rolls-Royce SMR business is 80 per cent owned by the engineer, which has been designing nuclear reactors since the UK’s nuclear submarine programme was set up in the 1950s.