23 Jul (NucNet): Rolls-Royce is preparing to shut down its project to develop small modular nuclear reactors if the government does not make a long-term commitment to the technology, including financial support, in the coming months, the Financial Times reported.
According to the UK-based newspaper, the UK aero-engine maker has scaled back investment significantly, from several millions to simply paying for “a handful of salaries”.
Warren East, Rolls-Royce chief executive, told the Financial Times: “Obviously, we would love to keep the project alive so we will do it as cleanly as we possibly can . . . shutting down as much of the activity as we can shut down without killing the capability.”
However, David Orr, executive vice-president of Rolls-Royce’s SMR programme, said that without comfort from the government on two fronts the project “will not fly. We are coming to crunch time.”
Rolls-Royce wants its technology to be chosen as the first to apply for a licence. It also wants the government to provide financial support, initially of about £20m, to take the technology through the early stages of the licensing process.
This funding would be matched by the consortium, which includes companies such as Laing O’Rouke and Arup. Rolls-Royce is one of several consortia to have bid in a government-sponsored competition launched in 2015 to find the most viable technology for a new generation of SMRs.
Rolls-Royce is developing a patented SMR concept which is designed specifically for factory manufacture and commissioning, speed of installation and reduced onsite construction work.
In September 2017 media reports said industry players including Rolls-Royce, NuScale, Hitachi and Westinghouse had held meetings with civil servants about nuclear strategy and the development of SMRs.
In a report published in September 2017, Rolls-Royce said SMRs could produce energy for as low as £60 per MWh, which is competitive against wind and solar and significantly lower than the £92.50 per MWh agreed by the government and project developer EDF for Hinkley Point C.
Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the London-based Nuclear Industry Association, said with a potential global market for SMRs valued at £250bn-£400bn, the government must provide clarity if the energy, industrial and export opportunities of a UK SMR are to be realised.
Rolls-Royce said an SMR programme represents “a once in a lifetime opportunity” for UK nuclear companies to design, manufacture and build next generation reactors to meet the UK’s energy needs.
SMRs could be made in centralised manufacturing facilities and then transported to anywhere in the country or overseas, producing benefits of scale which would drive down costs.