Rolls-Royce encourages regions to bid on manufacturing site for small modular reactors
Aero-engine maker Rolls-Royce has now invited bids from regions in England and Wales to be the location of its main factory to build a planned fleet of small modular reactors (SMRs).
The industry consortium led by Rolls-Royce has written to several of England’s regional development bodies and the Welsh government asking them to pitch for the manufacturing site, promising investment of up to £200m and the creation of up to 200 direct jobs
City A.M. understands that the site would require six acres of space, and would cost £100-200m to build.
The manufacturing hub would construct the reactors, which would then be transported by road to be further developed at the main site.
Rolls-Royce is hoping to initially build four mini-reactors that could be operational by the end of the decade and boost the UK’s nuclear ambitions, with the energy source a key part of the country’s net zero carbon emissions plans.
The four SMRs will be capable of generating nearly 500 megawatts of power, at a price of £2bn each, which is three times more than most existing nuclear submarine reactors but six times less than the 3.2 gigawatts that powers the large plant under construction at Hinkley Point or the identical proposed site at Sizewell C.
Rolls-Royce’s plans are the first stage of its ambitions to develop a fleet of mini-reactors through government support and private sector funding.
The group secured £210m in public money last year following Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng’s revamp of the UK’s nuclear strategy last year to construct its first set of reactors at a site in England or Wales.
This will go alongside £280m raised privately, with each mini reactor costing £2bn each to construct.
Rolls-Royce hopes its plans could revitalise the UK’s flagging nuclear power base, with multiple domestic sites set for closure over the next two decades.
Nuclear power is currently responsible for 21 per cent of Britain’s electricity supply, but the government wants to increase its presence in the energy mix with two new identical sites at Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C.
However, with multiple sites set to close over the next two decades, SMRs have become an attractive supplementary option for the government.
UK prime minister Boris Johnson backed small modular reactors as part of his 10-point plan for a “green industrial revolution”.
The technology is perceived by the government as a good way to create manufacturing jobs as well as delivering on Johnson’s “levelling up” agenda to help less developed areas.
Commenting on the plans, a Rolls-Royce spokesperson said: “The development and growth of a UK nuclear manufacturing base is core to the deployment of Rolls-Royce SMRs. We have therefore initiated a process to identify a site for the first major factory installation, the heavy pressure vessel factory.”
Outlining the next steps, they added: “We look forward to working with LEPs and the Welsh Government to identify potential sites, an important step in delivering on our commitment to 80% UK content for Rolls-Royce SMR deployment in the UK.”