Rolls-Royce picks Amec, Arup for modular nuclear reactor team

Rolls-Royce has named the team it will work with to develop Britain’s entry in the race to design a small modular reactor (SMR), the portable, mass-produced power sources that many nuclear companies believe will be an important element in future energy systems.

The companies chosen include Amec Foster Wheeler, Nuvia and Arup, together with the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre. Other companies will be added to the list in the coming months.

A spokesperson for the company said: "We are working with some of Britain’s most experienced civil engineering companies and nuclear research organisations to realise the huge potential of SMRs for the wider UK economy.

"We share a common belief that a home-grown SMR programme can play a key role in strengthening the UK’s energy mix and security, while creating valuable intellectual property, exports and jobs. We are working together to deliver a whole power plant which could be up and running in just over a decade and provide a boost for the UK’s industrial strategy."

The consortium will enter a £250m ($300m) competition launched by the UK government in March last year. If this does lead to a successful UK design, Rolls-Royce has suggested that it may create as many as 40,000 skilled manufacturing jobs and inject £100bn ($127 billion) into the UK economy between 2030 and 2050.

Rolls-Royce has experience of designing nuclear propulsion plants for submarines (Rolls-Royce)

Rolls-Royce has already submitted a paper to the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy outlining its plan to develop 7GW of SMRs, together with its strategic partners at EDF Energy, the China National Nuclear Corporation, Westinghouse and NuScale Power.

A report last October by the Energy Technologies Institute suggested that the UK could bring its first reactor to market by 2030, and that it could be installed in cities as a combined heat and power source.

The amount of value generated by the design will depend to some extent on its export potential, which in turn will depend on the success of rival SMR programmes. More than 45 designs are under development around the world in countries such as Russia, India, Japan, the US, France, China and Argentina.

One of the frontrunners is the Oregon-based NuScale Power, which is also involved in the Rolls-Royce bid. It said this week that it would submit the design certification application for its SMR to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission on 12 January.

A spokesperson said: "The 12,000-page NRC submission is a vital step in the certification process, which will move NuScale Power’s advanced nuclear technology closer to commercialisation and construction of the first plant at a site on the Idaho National Laboratory."

NuScale’s reactor design (NuScale)

Meanwhile, Amec Foster Wheeler announced this week that it has been appointed to carry out design development work on an integrated plant simulator for the ITER nuclear fusion reactor that is being developed in southern France.

The company will draw up technical specifications and implementation plans for the simulator along with three subcontractors: the UK Atomic Energy Authority, Fortum, and the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.

Greg Willetts, vice president for consultancy at the company’s Clean Energy business, said: "We are delighted to have been asked to lead this work which will play an important part in preparing for the integrated operation of the ITER machine."

Top image via D Sharon Pruitt/Creative Commons

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