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April 19, 2022updated 20 Apr 2022 12:29pm

Rolls Royce plans first UK modular nuclear reactor for 2029

The engineering company has started the regulatory process for its new small modular reactor.

By Matt Farmer

British engineering firm Rolls Royce plans to turn on its first small modular nuclear reactor (SMR) by 2029.

Speaking to Reuters, Rolls Royce small modular reactors chairperson Paul Stein said that the reactor’s regulatory process “has been kicked off, and will likely be complete in the middle of 2024″. Stein also said his company had started negotiating with the UK Government and others with an aim to start generation by 2029.

The UK Government recently published its Energy Security Strategy, which emphasised an expansion in the country’s nuclear generation. The whitepaper outlines plans for construction of 16GW of additional nuclear capacity, tripling the country’s current nuclear generation.

The government previously supported Rolls Royce’s SMR development with $274m (£210m). It has now asked the UK’s nuclear regulator to begin the approval process for Rolls Royce’s SMR design.

Stein said Rolls Royce would now start manufacturing of SMR parts expected not to change before licensing. The company previously said that it aims to complete “up to 10 [SMRs] by 2035”.

Before now, Rolls Royce’s only experience in the power sector came from bespoke power system engineering via subsidiary MTU Solutions. The company’s SMR design would generate 470MW with an initial cost of approximately $3bn. The company expects this to fall to $2.45bn over time, with an operating cost of $68/MWh.

Some within the power industry consider SMRs to be unnecessarily expensive when compared to more proven renewables. At the same time, environmentalists have criticised SMRs for their waste output and comparatively long development cycle.

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