In the last few years, smaller scale reactors have been generating an increasing amount of interest among governments and nuclear experts keen to ramp up atomic energy production to help them achieve net zero targets. Supporters claim that Small Modular Reactors, or SMRs, are safer, cheaper, faster, and easier to build than large scale plants.
Manufactured in controlled factory environments, standardised designs are intended to be cheaper to mass produce at scale, making additions or spare parts easier to access and bolt on. Due to their smaller size, they can be transported to and installed in remote environments where energy-intensive, difficult to decarbonise industries, like mining or desalination plants, are typically located. Furthermore, the compact designs of SMRs mean that they don't require access to large water sources to keep them cool, reducing the space needed to make them work.
Many mobile reactors have been used to power military vessels at sea for decades. But it's only recently that a handful of household names like Rolls-Royce, Westinghouse, GE-Hitachi, EDF, Holtec Britain Limited and NuScale Power, have started pitching or developing SMR projects to generate electricity for commercial use on land. The Rolls-Royce SMR programme is forecast to create 40,000 regional UK jobs by 2050 and generate an incredible £52bn in economic benefit.
Sir Stephen Lovegrove GCMG KCB, Rolls-Royce SMR Chair, said of the new programme:
“Energy security, decarbonisation and electrification are fundamental to the growth and success of modern economies and the health of the planet, and have led to significant and inevitable growth in the demand for nuclear power. I am honoured to have the opportunity to contribute to Rolls-Royce SMR and the deployment of the UK’s vital and deliverable solution to the global energy security challenge.”
One of the significant breakthroughs of SMRs is the potential advantages over traditional reactors in capital cost. Estimates of overnight construction costs are projected to be lower than for a conventional reactor—£2,800-£4,200/kW. Construction experts and leading physicists are currently figuring out how to make SMRs as simple as possible to decrease surplus costs.
Furthermore, the space required for them is significantly less, and for SMR companies and the investors backing them, the global clamour for emission-free energy may well mean that good things really can come in small packages.
You can contribute to the Rolls-Royce SMR programme by going to the Job Search tab on our website.
24 January 2024
Small Modular Reactors - ‘The UK’s vital and deliverable solution to the global energy challenge’
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