Rolls-Royce SMRA consortium headed by UK engineering company Rolls-Royce revealed on 7 November that it expects to develop its first-of-a-kind small nuclear reactors in Cumbria.

Alan Woods, director of strategy and business development at Rolls-Royce, told delegates at the Global Reach 2019 event that efforts to develop its emerging Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) would focus on existing nuclear-licensed sites, in particular, Cumbria and Wales.
The UK government announced in July that it would invest up to £18 million ($23m) to support the design of UK SMRs, and earlier in November UK Research and Innovation pledged to provide a further £18m, which will be matched by members of the consortium, to advance the project. Woods told the conference that, despite the SMR being at the design stage, the company was already eyeing sites.
“We expect to build them on sites in Wales and particularly in Cumbria. That’s where we’re focusing, that’s where we’ll put our effort.” He outlined the benefits of SMRs and the impact they could have in helping the UK to eradicate all CO2 emissions by 2050. “All our focus has been on reducing the capital, absolutely reducing the construction period, and removing risks where we can. It opens the market to much greater potential investors. We have to make them cost-competitive,” he said. “To me, this is fundamental to the UK economy. We don’t just have the opportunity to regenerate areas that currently do nuclear, but also export. That is our main objective. This isn’t about reactors, it is all about innovation for benefit.”
The SMR consortium – which also includes the National Nuclear Laboratory, Wood, Atkins, Laing O’Rourke, Assystem, BAM Nuttall, The Welding Institute (TWI) and Nuclear AMRC – aims to have the first unit operating in the early 2030s.

Construction is expected to take some four years per station, although the first unit would take longer, Woods noted. The consortium is targeting a cost of £1.8bn for each station, which would operate for 60 years and provide 440MW of electricity. By 2050, it hopes to have a programme of 16 of its power stations, creating up to 40,000 jobs, generating £52bn for the UK and exports worth £250bn.

Photo: The Rolls-Royce SMR (Credit: Rolls-Royce)