Rolls-Royce has signed MOUs with Exelon and CEZ on SMRsUK-based Rolls-Royce has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with US utility Exelon Generation to pursue the potential for Exelon to operate compact nuclear power stations both in the UK and internationally. Exelon Generation will be using their operational experience to assist Rolls Royce in the development and deployment of the UKSMR.

Rolls-Royce is leading a consortium that is designing a low-cost factory built small modular reactor (SMR). Its standardised, factory-made components and advanced manufacturing processes push costs down, while the rapid assembly of the modules and components inside a weatherproof canopy on the power station site will avoid costly schedule disruptions.

The consortium is working with its partners and UK Government to secure a commitment for a fleet of factory built nuclear plants, each with a capacity of 440MWe, to be operational within a decade. Rolls Royce said a fleet deployment in the UK “will lead to the creation of new factories that will make the components and modules, which will help the economy recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and pave the way for significant export opportunities as well”.

The consortium members include Assystem, Atkins, BAM Nuttall, Jacobs, Laing O’Rourke, National Nuclear Laboratory, Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, Rolls-Royce and TWI. Exelon will add valuable operational experience to the team.

“Nuclear power is central to tackling climate change and economic recovery, but it must be affordable, reliable and investable and the way we manufacture and assemble our power station brings its cost down to be comparable with offshore wind,” said Tom Samson, interim CEO of the UKSMR consortium. “It’s a compelling proposition that could draw new players into the UK’s power generation landscape, improving choice for consumers and providing uninterrupted low carbon energy to homes and businesses.”

He added that the partnership with Exelon “offers our future customers the ability to achieve the highest performance standards associated with Exelon’s outstanding operational track record”. Exelon Nuclear operates 21 nuclear reactors in the USA. Bryan Hanson, EVP and COO of Exelon Generation said: “We believe that SMRs are a crucial part of the world’s clean energy mix. With our experience both in the US and internationally, Exelon is confident that we can help Rolls Royce ensure SMRs play a key role in the UK’s energy future.”

Ralph Hunter, Managing Director of Exelon Nuclear Partners, who runs Exelon’s international clean energy business, said: “We have a strong track record of success to be the operator of choice for the UKSMR. We will help develop operational capability, training and human capacity development in the UK, ensuring localisation of skills and a strong culture of safety, performance and efficiency.” The current phase of the UKSMR programme has been jointly funded by all consortium members and UK Research and Innovation.

Rolls-Royce inks MOU with CEZ

Rolls-Royce has also signed a MOU with Czech power company CEZ to explore the potential SMRs to be built in the Czech Republic.

UK SMR interim CEO Samson said: “Nuclear power is central to tackling climate change and economic recovery across the world. The affordability and speed with which we can assemble the entire power station will no doubt make it a very attractive option for CEZ as it looks to its future reliable low carbon energy supply. I look forward to developing this important relationship for the future.”

Daniel Beneš, Chairman of the Board of Directors and CEO of CEZ, said: "New energy solutions and technologies play an important role in our business and we have been focusing on small modular reactors for quite some time now, especially in our top research company UJV Řež. In the future, they can be an important alternative that we cannot ignore. The partnership with Rolls-Royce and other global companies is therefore a logical step in our endeavour.”

UK plans could create 6000 jobs

Rolls-Royce announced yesterday that the UK SMR Consortium expects to create 6000 regional UK jobs within the next five years, if the UK government makes a clear commitment that enables a fleet of 16 small modular reactor (SMR) power stations to be built over the next 20 years.

“Our ambition to accelerate the deployment of a fleet these power stations across the UK will contribute massively to the ‘levelling up’ agenda, creating sustainable high value manufacturing jobs in those areas most in need of economic activity," Samson said.

“In addition, the fleet approach will bring huge value to the communities of which these power stations will be a part, with economic activity spanning 60 years of operations. Families and businesses in our existing nuclear estate, such as West Cumbria and North Wales, will benefit from prosperity, social mobility and opportunity for decades to come.”

Rolls-Royce added that the export potential by 2050 is expected to be at least £250 billion, and could lead to further UK jobs.

In addition to the MOUs with Exelon and CEZ, the company noted that Turkey is currently working through a feasibility study for domestic use, as well as possible joint power station production, to underpin clean economic growth.

Photo: Rolls-Royce is leading the UK SMR Consortium