Britain backs Rolls-Royce mini nuclear plants in net zero drive

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LONDON (Businesshala) – Britain has backed a $546 million Rolls-Royce funding round to develop the country’s first small modular nuclear reactor to reach net zero carbon emissions and promote new technology with export potential.

FILE PHOTO: The Rolls-Royce logo is featured at the World Nuclear Exhibition (WNE), the trade fair event for the global nuclear community, in Villepinte near Paris, France, June 27, 2018. Businesshala/Benoit Tessier/File photo

Achieving its emissions target by 2050 requires massive increases in low-carbon power generation such as wind, solar and nuclear, but while large-scale new nuclear projects have struggled for funding, Britain is now on smaller volumes. doing banking.

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“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the UK to deploy more low-carbon energy than ever before and ensure greater energy independence,” Britain’s Trade and Energy Secretary Quasi Quarteng said on Tuesday.

Small modular reactors (SMRs) can be built in factories, with parts small enough to be carried on trucks and barges and assembled more quickly and cheaply than larger-scale ones.

Each mini plant can power approximately 1 million homes and Rolls-Royce estimates that the SMR business could create 40,000 jobs based on British and export demand.

It said global export potential was “unprecedented”, in line with a government plan to increase clean tech jobs as part of the so-called green industrial revolution.

Britain wants to reduce gas-generated electricity, a desire strengthened by this year’s dramatic price hike, which has resulted in shortages at many smaller energy suppliers.

It is also seeking to replace older nuclear plants with one of Britain’s existing nuclear fleet, which provides about 20% of the country’s electricity, which is set to be shut down by 2030.

SMRs will not be available until the early 2030s and all new nuclear power projects require approval from the UK Office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and its General Design Assessment, which can take around four years to complete for larger plants. Huh.

Greenpeace criticized the government’s £210 million ($283 million) investment over three years with £195 million ($263 million) from Rolls-Royce and two partners, BNF Resources UK and Exelon Generation .

“The immediate deadline for action is a sharp cut in emissions by 2030, and smaller reactors will have no role to play in this,” said Dr. Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace.

“They are still more expensive than renewable technologies, there is still no solution for the disposal of the radioactive waste they leave behind and there is no consensus on where they should be located,” he added in an emailed statement. .

Nuclear power plants in the UK can also be built only at sites licensed by the government, and earlier SMRs can be installed at existing nuclear plant sites or at licensed sites where older plants are being decommissioned.

investor signals

Rolls-Royce shares rose 4% on news of a vote of confidence in the aero-engineer’s SMR business. Shares of Rolls-Royce, which will own about 80% of the new Rolls-Royce SMR unit, have already gained 33% this year on hopes that the worst of the COVID-19 aviation slowdown is behind it.

The new funding will enable SMR technology to take the next steps through the UK regulatory process, and identify sites for the plants, which will be about the size of two soccer fields.

“(This) sends a big signal to private investors that the government wants new large-scale stations to have zero SMRs as well,” said Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association. Treats nuclear as a green technology.

Citi analysts noted that Rolls-Royce previously estimated that the UK may need around 16 SMRs between 2030 and 2050 to replace older plants, adding that the unit should promote the company more broadly. can.

“There is a long-term trade, international opportunity and potentially other uses, such as green hydrogen production, which could be used in synthetic aviation fuels and desalination in dry areas,” he said.

But Agency Partners analyst Nick Cunningham was less convinced.

“The UK will be building some Rolls-Royce SMRs over a period of a few years before they become obsolete by the new technology … it will barely move the dial for Rolls-Royce investors,” he said.

($1 = 0.7414 pounds)

Reporting by Susanna Twidel and Sarah Young; Editing by Alexander Smith

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