Rolls-Royce makes UK small nuclear shortlist

In a significant boost for emerging nuclear engineering, Rolls-Royce and five other firms have made the shortlist to build the UK’s first set of small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs).

The UK is seeking increase its nuclear power capacity to 24 gigawatts (GW) by 2050 as part of efforts to meet climate targets and boost energy security, representing about a quarter of projected electricity demand versus about 14% today.

The announcement of the shortlist follows an open competition launched in July to help develop the technology with the aim of deploying projects in the 2030s.

EDF, GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy International, Holtec Britain, NuScale Power and Westinghouse Electric Company UK were the other companies chosen for the next stage of the process.

Rolls-Royce, whose main business is making engines for large passenger jets, is the only company whose SMR technology is under review by European regulators.

“Securing a domestic contract is vitally important to unlock the enormous global export potential of our clean energy technology,” Rolls-Royce Group president and SMR division CEO Chris Cholerton said in a statement.

SMRs can be built more quickly and cheaply than large-scale reactors, with parts small enough to be transported on trucks and barges.

The UK government said it would launch the next stage of the competition as soon as possible and hopes to announce in spring 2024 which of the six companies would be supported with contracts awarded by summer 2024.