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Rolls-Royce angling as medium term solution to UK power crisis

March 22, 2016

By Paul Homewood 



Rolls-Royce is engaged in discussion with the UK government over the possibility of its expertise being used to develop small modular nuclear reactors as an alternative to larger projects such as the controversial Hinkley Point C plant.
The company argues that the mini reactors it is championing are a more viable medium-term solution to
Britain’s looming energy crisis, although the first crop of new large reactors will still need to be deployed.

NuScale SMR nuclear reactor 

Rolls says its expertise gained producing power plants for the Royal Navy’s submarines means it’s ideally positioned to fill the gap in the UK’s energy requirement while larger projects are being developed.
Hinkley Point C was initially meant to start generating next year but has been beset with problems linked to design and financing arrangements.
Paul Stein, Rolls’s director of research and technology, said: “Traditional plants are bespoke projects and aren’t getting cheaper. SMRs could be made in factories and assembled on site, speeding up work. I’d be disappointed if using SMRs we couldn’t generate power at least a fifth cheaper.”
Rolls has submitted detailed designs to the Government for SMRs capable of generating 220 MW, that could be doubled up to 440 megawatts on plants covering 10 football fields, a 10th of the size of a traditional nuclear power station. 
Mr Stein added that with financial backing from government to seed development and political and regulatory support, the company could have the first SMR generating power in 10 years for £1.25bn. Costs would fall as more were produced.
He said Britain could potentially take a global lead in the SMR market which could be worth £400bn.


Britain’s energy policy seems a bit like that oil tanker which takes the length of the English Channel to turn around.

Given that we are already within a gnat’s of meeting the EU 2030 target of reducing GHG emissions by 40%, would it not be sensible to place a moratorium on subsidies for all new wind/solar, cancel Hinkley and encourage the market to bring forward new conventional thermal capacity, while we give time for new technologies such as SMRs to prove themselves?

Or is that too much like commonsense?

  1. March 22, 2016 12:12 pm

    Let’s see how they work in practice before ditching other options,, but this could be an approach whose time has come.

  2. A C Osborn permalink
    March 22, 2016 12:39 pm

    Paul, after the declaration of going for 100% de-carbonisation it is patently obvious that Common Sense is NOT a requirement for anyone in the Government.
    But we do have this over at the Bish’s site, which fits in perfectly.

  3. Matthew permalink
    March 22, 2016 2:02 pm

    I suspect it will take a series of blackouts before those in charge stop pandering to environmentalists and build gas fired power stations.

    They clearly don’t care about the price they are prepared to stitch us, the customers, up with, re: Hinkley and off-shore wind, so maybe when pensioners start dying in a cold winter during a blackout they will realise they actually have to do something constructive not destructive.

    • March 22, 2016 4:09 pm

      The politicos are rabbits in the headlights; they know AGW is balderdash. However they cannot backtrack; to do so is to admit to wasting billions fleeced from taxpayers, to admit to destroying jobs, destroying livelihoods, causing people to lose their homes, etc. Shame, and arrogance, will prevent any “mea culpa”; so inexorably the Titanic will motor on into the iceberg. Being rich, those responsible have already booked a lifeboat.

  4. It doesn't add up... permalink
    March 22, 2016 5:07 pm

    “At least a fifth cheaper”

    That’s not much when you’re looking at the world’s most expensive nuclear power station as the benchmark.

    In the 2015 edition of its [OECD Nuclear Energy Agency] report on Projected Costs of Generating Electricity, the overnight costs in OECD countries ranged from $2021/kWe in Korea to $6215/kWe in Hungary. For China, two comparable figures were $1807/kWe and $2615/kWe. [according to World Nuclear Association]

    The alleged £18bn overnight cost for HPC (over £24bn including inflation and interest cost during construction) is around $8,000/kWe. Why can’t we look at technology around the $2,000 level, which would need no subsidy? Why should size be the criterion?

    • March 22, 2016 6:07 pm

      I suspect Rolls are allowing more than a bit of negotiating room!

      I know I would

  5. It doesn't add up... permalink
    March 22, 2016 5:45 pm

    Bechtel may also be in the running on the EFSchumachers (“Small is Beautiful”):

  6. It doesn't add up... permalink
    March 22, 2016 5:57 pm

    Meanwhile the RC has quietly swept aside the Austrian complaints on Hinkley subsidy

    • March 22, 2016 6:10 pm

      I’m not sure if this actually covers the Austrian objection – do we have more detail?

  7. March 22, 2016 7:12 pm

    Reblogged this on Tallbloke's Talkshop and commented:
    Could this be the UK’s last chance to be even slightly sensible about electricity generation?

  8. AlecM permalink
    March 23, 2016 9:09 am

    But we also need a short term solution, to be deployed within 2 years.

    There is one, ready to go, but the carbon traders and subsidy farmers won’t like it.

  9. March 26, 2016 8:05 pm

    440 Mw on 10 football fields? How large are those nuclear subs? Seriously, I presume Rolls-Royce don’t do thorium reactors.

  10. Keith Willshaw permalink
    March 26, 2016 11:47 pm

    Hmmm while in general I am very much in favour of nuclear energy we should be aware of special pleading when it happens. Rolls Royce do indeed have some expertise in small scale reactors as they build the reactors for the nuclear submarines of the RN. The trouble is they are not going to be a cheap or easy solution. Submarine reactors run on highly enriched uranium and are going to have all the problems of conventional nuclear power plants with all the associated costs. Fact is these reactors produce less than 10% of the power of a reactor like Sizewell B but need all the trappings that go with any reactor installation. The designs don’t even exist yet so we have no real idea of cost.

    There are some commercial off the shelf designs such as the Canadian Candu and South Korean OPR-1000 but unfortunately we in the UK decided to abandon our domestic nuclear industry in the 1980’s. I am one of the last generation of UK nuclear engineers and retired at the end of 2015. What this means is that whoever we go to can name their own price.

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