Rolls-Royce plans to build small nuclear power plants in Britain

Rolls-Royce, the British jet engine maker, said on Tuesday it was forming a company to build a series of smaller and cheaper nuclear rea...


Rolls-Royce, the British jet engine maker, said on Tuesday it was forming a company to build a series of smaller and cheaper nuclear reactors as Britain seeks ways to cut carbon emissions and nuclear energy costs.

The type of reactor proposed by Rolls-Royce would cover about two football fields, or about a tenth the area of ​​a conventional nuclear power plant, the company said.

These plants would generate less electricity, about a seventh of the output of the giant nuclear facility being built at Hinkley Point in southwest England.

But Rolls-Royce has said it hopes to cut construction costs to around 2 billion pounds ($ 2.7 billion) each, compared to around 22.5 billion pounds for the Hinkley Point plant. Part of the savings would come from building a large number of factories and manufacturing modules in the factories which can then be assembled at the sites.

The company hopes to build 16 of these plants, known as small modular reactors, and said each could power around one million homes.

The UK government will provide a £ 210million grant to develop the power plants, while Rolls-Royce and its partners, including Exelon Generation, a US nuclear company, and BNF Resources, a private company, together will invest £ 195million. over three years.

The government is looking for clean energy sources to replace aging UK nuclear power plants, although Rolls-Royce models are unlikely to be in service for at least a decade.

As well as being a tool for achieving ambitious emissions targets, the government sees the small nuclear program as a way to deliver on its promise to create jobs in the north of England, where, Rolls-Royce said, most investments will be based. The government also hopes to create an export industry supplying such factories to other countries.

Britain, however, is likely to face competition from France, which recently announced its own small reactor program, and the United States, where operators are working on similar concepts. Last week, NuScale Power, based in Portland, Oregon, announced a deal build small modular reactors in Romania.

Despite the risk of accidents, Nuclear energy sparks new interest in Europe and elsewhere as a tool for countries to achieve increasingly ambitious targets for reducing carbon emissions responsible for climate change. Nuclear power plants are popular for providing large amounts of low carbon electricity.

Rolls-Royce’s work with nuclear power includes the design of reactors aboard British nuclear submarines, work that began in the 1950s.

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