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Tax-payer funding for yet another nuclear folly? Rolls Royce’s Small Modular Reactors

Rolls-Royce seeks government funds for nuclear power project  Group wants £200m to develop small-scale plants after failure of big schemes   and – 27 Jan 19

 A consortium led by Rolls-Royce has asked for more than £200m in government funding to help develop its project for small nuclear reactors, as ministers scramble to recast Britain’s energy policy after the collapse of plans to build several large reactors. The engineering group and its partners, which include Laing O’Rourke and Arup, want to secure a sum “in the low hundreds of millions”, confirmed one person with knowledge of the request. Any amount would be match-funded by the consortium and be used to develop Rolls-Royce’s technology through to the later stages of the licensing process in order to be able to attract private investment.

 Supporters of small modular reactors — most of which will not be commercial until the 2030s — argue that they can deliver nuclear power at lower cost and reduced risk. They will draw on modular manufacturing techniques that will reduce construction risk, which has plagued larger-scale projects.

The consortium has applied for funding from the government’s industrial strategy challenge fund under UK Research and Innovation. The money would enable the group to develop its design through to the later stages of the “generic design assessment” by the industry regulator. Industry sources with knowledge of the bid said the consortium “entered detailed negotiations” with UKRI before Christmas. Rolls-Royce has previously said it believes its reactor would cost about £2.5bn to build.

 The push comes as the UK’s long-term energy policy has been thrown into chaos by the collapse of three new nuclear projects, after Hitachi’s decision earlier this month to freeze its involvement in the Wylfa plant in north Wales.
More than 40 per cent of the UK’s planned new nuclear capacity has in effect been cancelled, with Toshiba pulling out of developing a plant in Cumbria last year, while Hitachi has scrapped plans for another plant in Oldbury-on-Severn in Gloucestershire. The UK government said it remained committed to developing nuclear plants with the private sector but has baulked at the cost and level of support investors have demanded. It is due to publish a white paper this summer that will overhaul its energy strategy. While nuclear is expected to remain part of the mix, the government is keen to examine new funding models and approaches.
Business secretary Greg Clark said in a letter to the Financial Times last week that “small modular reactors can have a role to play” but again cautioned these plans could not be “at any price”. Rolls-Royce and its team is one of several consortiums that bid in a government-sponsored competition launched in 2015 to find the most viable technology for a new generation of small nuclear power plants. However, when a nuclear sector deal was finally unveiled last June, the government allocated funding only for more advanced modular reactors.
 SMR’s, which typically use water-cooled reactors similar to existing nuclear power stations, were omitted from funding even though they were closer to becoming commercial.
 Rolls-Royce threatened last summer that it would shut down the project if there was no meaningful support from the government. It has already significantly reduced the number of staff working on the project. The business department said the government was “considering” a funding bid from a UK consortium to support research and development of a low-cost SMR”. A decision was expected “in spring 2019”. Rolls-Royce said: “Our consortium is in discussions with UK government officials that we hope could result in a significant joint investment in our power plant design.”

January 28, 2019 - Posted by | politics, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, UK

1 Comment »

  1. The Nucleoapes are nuts and the taxpayers who fund them are stupid

    Comment by Doug | January 28, 2019 | Reply

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