Rolls-Royce to develop small modular reactors
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Rolls-Royce, together with BNV Resources and Exelon Generation, is to invest 195 million pounds ($262 million) in the development of small modular reactors, Rolls-Royce announced. The project is also to receive 210 million pounds from UK Research and Innovation, a government body.

    BNF Resources is an asset of the French billionaire Perrodo family and belongs to the Peronco oil and gas group – it has operations in 14 countries and has daily production of 465,000 barrels of oil equivalent.

    Exelon Generation is one of the largest U.S. electricity generating companies and owns nuclear reactors with a combined total capacity 18.7 GW as well as 12 GW of wind, solar, gas, fuel oil-diesel and hydropower stations.

A special unit of Rolls-Royce was created for the project – Rolls-Royce Small Modular Reactor (SMR)

   “By deploying SMRs in the UK and overseas we will be making a significant contribution to decarbonisation,” said Paul Stein, Chief Technology Officer, Rolls-Royce and Chairman of Rolls-Royce SMR.

    “While the decarbonisation of the electricity grid is vital, I am particularly excited by the use of SMRs to synthesise net zero fuels which can be used to power Rolls-Royce engines.”

    Rolls-Royce plans to launch operations at stations occupying a space equivalent to two football pitches and able to supply power to approximately one million homes.

    The stations can be both connected to the electricity grid, but used also to provide power for individual, autonomous production sites and territories. A large part of Rolls-Royce’s investment will focus on the north of the country, including Scotland, where two of Britain’s nuclear power stations are located – Hunterston and Torness.

    In 2020, nuclear power accounted for 16 % of power generation in Britain, according to data from the BP Statistical Review. That is less than the production figure for renewable resources (41 %) and gas-fired generation (36 %), but more than coal-fired power generation (2 %) and hydro power (2 %). In terms of installed capacity of nuclear power stations (7,833 MW, according to IAEA figures), Britain occupies 10th place world wide, behind not only the world’s leading producer, the United States (95,523 MW), but also other European countries, including France (61,370 MW) and Germany (8,113 MW).

    Interest in the technologies of small modular reactors is linked not only to the challenges of decarbonisation, but also to the notion of reducing costs associated with the construction of large nuclear power stations. According to data from the International Energy Agency (IEA), in 2020, unit capital expenditure costs on construction of nuclear power stations in the European Union ($6,600 per kW) were six times higher than those associated with gas-fired stations ($1,000 per kW).

    It is true that operating costs look advantageous for nuclear power stations ($35 per KWh of production compared to $80 for gas-fired stations). But the initial cost of construction is still reflected in unit costs of power generation — $156 per KWh compared to $100 for a gas-fired station).

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