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Hurdles ahead for Rolls Royce small nuclear reactor development.

SMR proponents argue that they can make up for the lost economies of scale by savings through mass manufacture in factories and resultant learning. But, to achieve such savings, these reactors have to be manufactured by the thousands, even under very optimistic assumptions about rates of learning.”
The Rolls Royce SMR design is not exactly small at 470 MWe.

SafeEnergy E Journal  No.92. December 21 Rolls Royce’s Small Modular Reactors On 9th November the Government announced that it would back the Rolls-Royce Small Modular Reactor with £210m in funding. Matched by private sector funding of over £250 million, this investment will be used to further develop SMR design and start the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) process  

  The Government claims that SMRs have the potential to be less expensive to build than traditional nuclear power plants because of their smaller size, and because the modular nature of the components offers the potential for parts to be produced in dedicated factories and shipped by road to site – reducing construction time and cost.

But the reason why existing reactors are large is precisely to derive economies of scale: why smaller reactors should be more economic is problematic. Nuclear proponents allege that assembly-line technology will be used in reactor construction but this has yet to be shown in practice anywhere in the world.

Some say that SMRs are little more than wishful thinking. For example, Professor MV Ramana ‒ Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs at the University of British Columbia – states:  

  “SMR proponents argue that they can make up for the lost economies of scale by savings through mass manufacture in factories and resultant learning. But, to achieve such savings, these reactors have to be manufactured by the thousands, even under very optimistic assumptions about rates of learning.” (1) 
The Rolls Royce SMR design is not exactly small at 470 MWe. It is proposing to build 16 reactors at an expected cost around £1.8bn – £2.2bn and producing power at £40-60/MWh over 60 yrs. (2)

As well as the Government funding, Rolls-Royce has been backed by a consortium of private investors. The creation of the Rolls-Royce Small Modular Reactor (SMR) business was announced following a £195m cash injection from BNF Resources, and Exelon Generation to fund the plans over the next three years.(3)

  Rolls Royce has submitted the SMR design to the GDA regulatory process, in a bid to secure clearance from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the UK’s nuclear and environmental regulatory bodies. It expects the process to take around four to five years, during which time it plans to “engage in a range of parallel activities” including the SMR factory development, potential siting for future nuclear plants, and “commercial discussions”. (4)

Before the ONR approval process begins, the company must first get clearance from the government to submit its designs, which is expected by around March next year. (5)  

  As expected, Moorside, Wylfa and Trawsfynydd have all been mentioned as potential sites for an SMR. Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen also wants Hartlepool to be on the list. (6)  https://www.no2nuclearpower.org.uk/wp/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/SafeEnergy_No92.pdf

November 27, 2021 - Posted by | 1 NUCLEAR ISSUES, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, UK

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