Rolls Royce to develop mini nuclear power plants

Published: 24 Oct 2017 By Matt Cook

A consortium led by Rolls Royce has proposed new plans for small-scale nuclear power plants. Rolls Royce is awaiting approval this week before proceeding with its design and potential development within the UK. The viability of the proposed mini nuclear plant for the UK is due to be published in a report very soon, and industry experts believe it is likely to be given approval.

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The Department of Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy is carrying out a formal study to evaluate the competition and to choose the most preferential type of low-carbon power technology. A rival proposal based on a US design is included within the review. However, industry professionals have suggested that there are manufacturing and maintenance difficulties associated with this design which make this option commercially unviable.

The recent proposal by Rolls Royce does suggest a possible revival of the nuclear industry in Britain. A separate assessment by the Government concluded that small nuclear reactor plans, that are a fraction of the size of traditional plants,  are one of the leading alternative energy technologies available within the UK.

Mini reactor development will be partially funded by a £250M government 2015 agreement to develop new nuclear technology with an aim to meet the criteria of the Paris agreement. Government reports suggest the mini-reactor technology will produce power at £60 per MW/hr, considerably cheaper than the cost of power generation from a larger, traditional nuclear power plant. The main challenge that could occur with this new technology is Brexit and potential limitations with restricting the free flow of skilled professionals to develop, maintain and operate these new systems.

Britain has an opportunity to take the lead in the nuclear industry by developing mini nuclear reactor technology. The cost reduction and efficiency of this concept completely outweigh conventional nuclear power facilities and highlights how crucial this design will be for the future of the nuclear sector.

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