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Rolls Royce secures £400m investment for nuclear reactors

CEO says firm has ‘a clean energy solution which can deliver cost competitive and scalable net zero power’


Pete Carvill

Rolls Royce has signalled its intention to begin building small modular reactors (SMR), after funding worth £400m was secured.

The funding will take place over three years, and consists of £195m from Rolls Royce Group, BNF Resources UK, and Exelon Generation, couple with £210m from the UK’s Research and Innovation funding.

According to Rolls Royce, “The business, which will continue to seek further investment, will now proceed rapidly with a range of parallel delivery activities, including entry to the UK Generic Design Assessment (GDA) process and identifying sites for the factories which will manufacture the modules that enable on-site assembly of the power plants.”

Clean energy solution

Warren East, chief executive of Rolls Royce, said in a statement: “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.

“The business could create up to 40,000 jobs, through UK deployment and export enabled growth. As a major shareholder in Rolls-Royce SMR, we will continue to support its path to successful deployment.”

The technology, said the company, will see each station power approximately one million homes through grid and off-grid solutions.

This venture by Rolls Royce and others had been in the works for some time, and was predicted in recent weeks by The Guardian. That paper wrote four weeks ago that Rolls Royce was seeking to build 16 reactors across the country.

It added: “SMRs are understood to be a key component of the prime minister’s pledge to eliminate fossil fuels from electricity generation by 2035, a landmark promise he made last month in the run-up to the UK’s hosting of the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow.”

The paper continued: “Rolls-Royce is being advised by HSBC, which has helped it secure £210m from private investors, a condition of the government stumping up the same amount.”

Support for SMRs has already come from the nuclear industry, with Nuclear Engineering International reporting that similar plans had received backing in the US from president Joe Biden.

That publication added: “These small plants can provide reliable energy in the form of both electricity and heat to power a city of about 100,000 people. The heat can help lower the emissions from carbon-intensive industries such as steel and cement making, while the baseload power could complement renewables such as wind and solar power. The SMR offers a step change from the existing world of nuclear power.”