Rolls-Royce SMR Overview

Today an announcement was made by Rolls-Royce, unveiling its intention to develop a number of Small Modular Reactors (SMR’s), following a sizable cash injection from private investors.


£195 million, was the copious figure raised through this investor backing, coupled with a £210m promised grant by government.


It is hoped, pending government approval, that Rolls-Royce SMR, could build up to 16 of these rectors across the UK, ushering a new generation of nuclear garnered electricity for supply.



These are exciting times for the UK’s nuclear prospectus!



But what exactly is an SMR?



Well, essentially a SMR, or Small Nuclear Reactor, is scaled down version of a conventional nuclear reactor plant.  The long-held belief being that due to their smaller size they, can be built and controlled more easily, and in a controlled factory setting, significantly reducing risk and cost.  This is the same kind of technology that is used in nuclear submarines, this being the basis of these projects.

It is speculated that early plans are to include an initial four Small Modular Reactors, which would be capable of generating nearly 500 (470) megawatts of power, and enough to power one million homes approximately.  This producing the equivalent of 150 onshore wind turbines, all whilst occupying a fraction of the space of a conventional nuclear plant, one tenth the size of a two football pitches.


Having said this, it does not come close to the enormous 3.2 gigawatts that large scale nuclear plants have in their arsenal, which is exactly the figure that the nuclear facility at Hinckley Point C is expected to deliver.  Providing power enough for over 6 million homes.


Putting this in preceptive against the garnered total figure, with a common expected price of a SMR, being measured at roughly £2bn, compared against the whopping £20bn of Hinckley, which continues to climb.


Whereas the generated potential power outage, does not come to par, when held against these larger stations, they are, to clarify, not expected to replace them altogether, but rather to work alongside them, and fill the vacuum of clean power needed to meet the UK’s energy quota.

Figures from within the industry have been largely supportive of development of these smaller scale reactors, and could see them fully operational around the UK and overseas within the decade.


The investment by Rolls-Royce Group, BNF Resources, Exelon Generation and the government, as previously stated, is currently undergoing the regulatory processes, to assess whether these SMR’s are suitable for application within the UK.  Possible locations for these sites, are also admits the review process.



How much does nuclear energy account for the UK’s electrical supply?


  • Currently, about 21% of the UK’s electricity supply is provided by nuclear, and with hopeful thinking, and government approval, this number with increase drastically in the months and years to come
  • The UK government’s climate commitments to phase out oil and gas, means that nuclear has never been a stronger contender, in order to meet supplier demand
  • £210m has been set aside by government for this very purpose



This all being part of the government’s 10 point green energy plan.


Nuclear is an excellent generator of clean energy, and it is sustainable as well.  Despite frequently facing criticism over its resultant waste by products, nuclear energy has huge potential in meeting UK energy demands.



Are we beginning to see this realised?


“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the UK to deploy more low carbon energy than ever before and ensure greater energy independence”  Warren East, Rolls-Royce Chief Executive.



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