‘Mini’ nuclear reactors delivered in prefabricated chunks on the back of trucks and assembled cost effectively onsite could become a reality by 2029, according to Rolls-Royce (LON:RR).
The British blue chip, known globally for its aviation, shipping and land power applications, said Friday (January 24) the Small Modular Reactor (SMR) consortium it leads is confident of achieving such a reality in the U.K. within the decade to address growing demand for electricity in a low carbon setting.
The consortium, which also includes ARUP, Laing O’Rourke, Nuvia and Wood Group, plans to install and operate such “factory-built power stations” capable of competing on price with low-cost renewables such as offshore wind.
Small Modular Reactor
Artist’s impression of a Rolls-Royce’s Small Modular Reactor (SMR) site: The company plans to … [+]ROLL-ROYCE HOLDINGS PLC
The initial proposal is to install the SMRs at former British nuclear sites in Cumbria or Wales with the ultimate objective of building 10 to 15 of the stations in the U.K. Giving details, a spokesperson said the required plant area would be about 1.5 acres, at the heart of a wider 10 acre operations site.
That is roughly around one-fifteenth the size of U.K.’s Hinkley Point which is among the country’s major nuclear power sector focal points. At a time when international nuclear power solutions developers such as Hitachi and Toshiba are suffering challenges, Rolls-Royce insists the SMR consortium will make the economics work.
The idea of having prefabricated parts put together using “advanced digital welding methods and robotic assembly”, subsequently shipped to site and bolted together would keep costs and security more predictable and manageable.
The SMRs are so practical in terms of scale and site optimization that in theory every city could have its own nuclear power reactor, Rolls-Royce added.
‘Mini’ nuclear reactors delivered in prefabricated chunks on the back of trucks
‘Mini’ nuclear reactors delivered in prefabricated chunks on the back of trucks and assembled cost … [+]ROLLS-ROYCE HOLDINGS PLC
The company already holds over 35 patents for elements of SMR technology and has been involved in the design, manufacture, delivery and operations of nuclear facilities since the 1990s. It has concrete plans of selling SMRs globally to achieve economies of scale, and has been fine tuning the concept in recent years.
“We’ve provided compact nuclear pressure water reactors (PWRs) across seven submarine classes, and have been involved in the design of a number of civil nuclear power stations. SMRs offer a low cost alternative for a global market aimed at reducing project complexities.”
According to a feasibility study conducted by the U.K.’s National Nuclear Laboratory, there is an estimated global market of up to £400 billion ($525 billion) for energy that cannot, in all circumstances, be met by large scale nuclear reactors and so presents a real opportunity for SMRs. Rolls-Royce can certainly count on a slice of that if things go according to plan.