SMRs (or Small Modular Reactors) are seen as a key element to the UK's energy security with their potential to be rolled out more swiftly than utility scale nuclear power plants such as Hinkley C. For example, Rolls-Royce's 470 megawatt SMR design is expected to cost £1.8bn (less than 10% of a Hinkley C) and be built on a 10-acre site.
However, there is significant competition in the SMR market. The Financial Times reported yesterday that up to 70 different SMR technologies are in development with the expectation in some quarters that only a handful will ultimately succeed given the need to drive down the cost of manufacturer to offset the diseconomies of scale of SMRs relative to utility scale plants.
First mover advantage may therefore be a critical factor in succeeding in the SMR market. Rolls-Royce appears to agree as it has recently announced that it is pushing ahead with the manufacture of various components of its SMR power plant before its design receives regulatory approval (expected mid 2024) with a focus on those components that are unlikely to require material modification as a result of that process.
This early (at risk) investment will allow R-R to bring forward the roll out of its SMRs allowing it to establish its brand and hone its delivery model with the ambition of achieving first power to the grid as early as 2029.
This is a bold move by Rolls-Royce but with both Government investment and policy on its side, a move that could ensure it is one of the handful of winners in this market.
“We are ready to deliver in the UK and overseas, working in parallel on siting and funding to ensure power from Rolls-Royce SMRs is online as close to 2030 as possible.”