Rolls-Royce has selected the University of Sheffield as its partner to establish a new manufacturing and testing facility in South Yorkshire, UK.

The Rolls-Royce SMR (small nuclear reactor) Module Development Facility will be situated within the university’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre’s (AMRC) Factory 2050.

The £2.7m initiative represents the first phase of a broader £15m programme aimed at advancing Rolls-Royce’s SMR technology.

The facility will focus on producing working prototypes of modules for assembly into Rolls-Royce SMR power plants.

The programme aims to provide a clean energy solution through advanced nuclear reactors.

The SMRs are intended to be factory-built and transported to sites for installation, offering a more scalable and cost-effective alternative to larger nuclear power stations.

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Rolls-Royce’s SMR programme will be the UK’s inaugural domestic nuclear technology in more than a generation.

The collaboration with the University of Sheffield’s AMRC marks a significant step towards deploying a fleet of factory-built nuclear power plants both in the UK and internationally.

Rolls-Royce SMR chief manufacturing engineer Victoria Scott stated: “Our investment in setting up this facility and building prototype modules is another significant milestone for our business.

“Our factories will produce hundreds of prefabricated and pre-tested modules ready for assembly on site. This facility will allow us to refine our production, testing and digital approach to manufacturing – helping de-risk our programme and ensure we increase our delivery certainty.”

AMRC’s Factory 2050 is a pioneering facility dedicated to digital manufacturing research and component production.

The University of Sheffield president and vice-chancellor Professor Koen Lamberts stated: “We are very proud that Rolls-Royce SMR has chosen to base its module development facility at our Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre’s Factory 2050.

“Today’s announcement is a testament to the university’s strengths in clean energy research and innovation, and our unrivalled expertise in developing leading-edge manufacturing techniques. We welcome this significant commitment from Rolls-Royce SMR to our ongoing partnership and the South Yorkshire region.” 

The Telegraph has quoted UK Energy Secretary Claire Coutinho as saying: “Small modular reactors are the future of nuclear technology, and key to quadrupling the UK’s nuclear capacity by 2050 as part of the biggest expansion in 70 years.

Rolls-Royce has estimated the cost of each SMR at £2bn, with a power generation capacity of approximately 470MW.

In comparison, the Hinkley Point C nuclear project is projected to cost up to £35bn and deliver 3.3GW of power.

Budget and forecast comparisons suggest that SMRs could provide power at less than half the cost per 100MW than Hinkley Point C. Despite these projections, the SMR technology is yet to be proven, as there are currently no operational SMRs globally.