Rolls-Royce plans mini nuclear reactors by 2029

Posted: January 24, 2020 by oldbrew in Energy, News, Nuclear power

Small modular reactor [credit: ANS Nuclear Cafe]

The plan sounds fairly low-key, suggesting they don’t expect great demand any time soon, even though electric cars are being heavily promoted in many countries. The report claims they’ll be competing with ‘low-cost renewables such as offshore wind’, but where are these supposedly low-cost installations, and why do they always need to be subsidised?
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Mini nuclear reactors could be generating power in the UK by the end of the decade, reports BBC News.

Manufacturer Rolls-Royce has told the BBC’s Today programme that it plans to install and operate factory-built power stations by 2029.

Mini nuclear stations can be mass manufactured and delivered in chunks on the back of a lorry, which makes costs more predictable.

But opponents say the UK should quit nuclear power altogether. They say the country should concentrate on cheaper renewable energy instead.

Environmentalists are divided over nuclear power, with some maintaining it is dangerous and expensive, while others say that to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 all technologies are needed.

However, the industry is confident that mini reactors can compete on price with low-cost renewables such as offshore wind.

Rolls-Royce is leading a consortium to build small modular reactors (SMRs) and install them in former nuclear sites in Cumbria or in Wales. Ultimately, the company thinks it will build between 10 and 15 of the stations in the UK.

They are about 1.5 acres in size – sitting in a 10-acre space. That is a 16th of the size of a major power station such as Hinkley Point.

SMRs are so small that theoretically every town could have its own reactor – but using existing sites avoids the huge problem of how to secure them against terrorist attacks.

Full report here.

  1. oldbrew says:

    Not much happening with UK wind and solar today. Doomed coal power taking up some of the slack.

  2. cognog2 says:

    Good news. The best way forward; but difficult with all those wretched Greens messing things up.
    The Moltex developments seem very promising.

  3. jazznick says:

    As at 18.15 GMT

    Demand 44.64GW

    Wind 1.47GW
    Pumped Storage outpaces our wind fleet at 1.49GW
    We are even getting 1.5GW from the French & Dutch interconnects combined.
    Nukes going virtually flat out at 7GW.
    Tree pellet burning 3GW
    Solar – Zip.

    The rest is Coal/Gas at around 29GW – thank heaven.

  4. oldbrew says:

    cheaper renewable energy

    So ‘cheap’ it cost multi-millions to keep it switched off last year? 🙄

    Pull the other one, BBC.

  5. Curious George says:

    “Mini nuclear stations can be mass manufactured and delivered in chunks on the back of a lorry, which makes costs more predictable.” Does it include legal costs?.

  6. Dodgy Geezer says:

    Rolls Royce ALREADY make perfectly adequate small reactors for use in submarines. And these are capable of ramping power up and down rapidly.

    So why should it take 10 years to produce a civilian version?

  7. stpaulchuck says:

    Dodgy Geezer says:
    January 24, 2020 at 10:59 pm

    that’s a REALLY good point. Perhaps the output from the sub units is way too small and does not lend itself of upscaling?

    I’ve been watching the SMR concept for years now. I always thought it a good idea once it was sorted out. It cuts out all the high expense transmission lines to far flung bits of the country for one thing along with smaller more homogeneous grids that would not need to be connected to the entire country.

    Think of farm communities. It would seem cheaper to install one of these and buy or subsidize the purchase/installation of a modest backup generator running off the propane/LNG tank that pretty much all farms have. If the nuke went down or needed some offline time for maintenance the backup generators could ensure heat/cool and light. My uncle had one connected to city gas and it was a simple, low/no maintenance unit. For cheaper installation you could do manual switchover.

    I’m sure there’s some really smart energy/power engineers out there that have a number of viable scenarios documented by now.

  8. oldmanK says:

    In power generation a nuke is equivalent to a lump of coal that needs no oxygen to burn (but needs a hell a lot of ‘else’). And then the rest of the power plant, with trained personnel 24/7. I don’t know about nukes, but for the rest, that’s not for small communities. Experience has shown many cannot even take care of an automatically operated diesel standby genset.

  9. John Murray says:

    PWR2, complete with fuel-element cracks?
    Or PWR3, complete with no testing?
    Power output 220MW-440MW.

  10. oldbrew says:

    From JM’s link, above…

    We have therefore looked at the activities underpinning the naval nuclear propulsion programme through the PWR3’s life and have identified a number of risks that concern us with some of these also applying to the legacy PWR2 programme. These risks are associated with:
    [list of ten of which four are redacted]

  11. ivan says:

    Dodgy Geezer, the reason it will take that long is all the rules and regulations on top of rules and regulations for nuclear power plants all gold plated by civil servants.

    There are regulations that require, for example, automatic shut down equipment to work with inbuilt automatic shut down equipment. The problem is that it doesn’t make it safer but does the opposite but that is what most countries using nuclear power plants have to contend with all in the name of safety all because of the ‘nuclear is bad’ lobby groups.

  12. Derek Colman says:

    These SMRs are very safe because they are designed so that melt down is impossible. If manufacturers get enough orders they will be far cheaper than conventional nuclear because mass production brings down unit costs. Existing nuclear plants are bespoke as hardly any two are the same. It should be mentioned that existing nuclear plants are already the safest way to generate electricity in terms of deaths per quantity of electricity produced. Only eco loons think they are dangerous.

  13. stpaulchuck says:

    oldmanK says:
    January 25, 2020 at 7:49 am
    You seem to be conflating SMR’s with old style huge nuclear plants with giant containment buildings, etc. There is no comparison. The technology is entirely different. SMR’s for instance cannot melt down (no ‘China Syndrome’ scares).

    here’s one report with outward links as well:

    Here’s one from the IAEA with links to related reports:

  14. South Korea is another country looking at Small Nuclear Rectors see this
    South Korea are at present building 4 unit Nuclear reactors for desalination in UAE see

  15. oldbrew says:

    A military bromance: SMRs to support and cross-subsidize the UK nuclear weapons program

    So SMRs will relieve the Ministry of Defence of the “burden” of paying for its own WMD programs!

  16. If my predictions are correct we will need every watt of energy we can lay our hands on. The last few day have seen demand for electricity high and we are suffering a lot of fog and little wind. Together they have been contributing around 5% of our electricity requirements and coal, which is to be shut down this year, has been called upon to contribute 10%. Pretty near the lights going off. I’ve just updated my blog to show a projection in 2025 where we will probably have an electricity supply deficit of some 16GW. If that happens I think the politician’s minds might become a bit more focussed instead of listening to the prophets of doom.

  17. ivan says:

    So SMRs will relieve the Ministry of Defence of the “burden” of paying for its own WMD programs!

    And there we see the hate of the anti-nuclear lobby for anything nuclear even if it provides cheap reliable power to the people – do they hate mankind so much that they would rather see everyone living in caves?

    These are the idiots responsible for the stupid rules and regulations tacked on to the excessive rules and regulations for nuclear power plants and why a nuclear power plant costs too mant times more than it should.

  18. oldbrew says:

    The HTGR (High Temperature Gas Reactor ) is deemed the only plausible alternative to PWR for small modular use, for now at least…

    A combination of a lack of technical maturity, together with the likely time and effort for licensing and deployment indicates that all Emerging Technologies except SM-HTGR are at least significantly challenged on ‘Time and Cost to Deployment’ relative to SM-PWRs.

    Click to access TEA_Project_3_-_Assessment_of_Emerging_SMR_Technologies.pdf

  19. Stuart Brown says:

    Wise International’s mission statement:

    “The mission of WISE is a world without Nuclear Power. It is our vision that it is possible to create a reliable, affordable and sustainable energy-future without nuclear power. This will not happen by itself. WISE is convinced that this will only mature if we manage to build upake that into account! enough pressure for a real change. Empowerment is the key for this change. WISE supports grassroots (groups and individuals) to enable them to effectively oppose nuclear power.”

    Any credibility given to their opinions should take that into account! I admit I prefer power that stays on 24/7, and I’m personally all for nuclear development, so I’m not unbiased either.

    Their plan is to:

    “Make sure emissions peak in 2015/16 and decrease as rapidly as possible towards zero after that,
    Developed countries must make cuts of 40 percent on their 1990 carbon emisisons by 2020,
    Developing countries must slow the growth of emissions by 15-30 percent by 2020, with support from industrialised nations,
    Protect tropical forests with a special funding mechanism – forests for climate,
    Replace dirty fossil fuel energy with renewable energy and energy efficiency,
    Reject false solutions like nuclear energy.”

    How did that go then, eh?

  20. gallopingcamel says:

    As a long time fan of MSRs (Molten Salt Reactors) I decided to find our how many designs for Small Modular Reactors were “In Process”. I was expecting to find between ten and twenty. To my immense surprise I found 61 and you can be sure there are many more I failed to find.

    Water…….27………..USA = 18
    Salt……….12………..Russia = 12
    Helium……9…………China = 8
    Lead………6…………UK = 5
    Sodium…..5…………Japan = 4
    Heatpipe…2…………Canada = 4
    …………………………..France = 2
    …………………………..S. Africa = 2
    …………………………..India = 2
    …………………………..Denmark = 1
    …………………………..S. Korea = 1
    …………………………..Sweden = 1
    …………………………..Argentina = 1