Rolls-Royce seeks to make the UK a low-carbon powerhouse

25 Juli 2019

The United Kingdom has pledged to achieve net zero emissions and a way to do that will be to embrace advanced nuclear technologies for energy generation, says a group of industrialists and investors.

A consortium led by Rolls-Royce sees innovative small modular reactors (SMRs) as an integral part of a large-scale low-carbon transition in the country, alongside a continued boost in renewables such as wind. The engineering firm says its planned SMRs will “provide the reliable and affordable electricity that Britain needs to lead the world in the drive towards net zero carbon emissions.”

The company, which manufactures luxury cars, aero engines and nuclear energy-related technologies, says it aims to help the UK become “a global leader in tackling climate change” by “lay[ing] the foundations for a homegrown nuclear power plant industry.”

A promised investment of £18 million by the British government in a new nuclear power station will be matched by the consortium and third parties in order to finalize the planned plant’s design and fine-tune its manufacturing requirements, according to Rolls-Royce.

“Our design will bolster the UK’s ambitions to tackle climate change while taking a further step towards creating an estimated 40,000 British jobs, reinvigorating a vital part of the country’s advanced manufacturing base and potentially generating hundreds of billions of pounds in export revenues,” Rolls-Royce said in a statement.

SMRs are small nuclear fission reactors that are seen by many energy experts as an ample and reliable form of low-carbon energy because they are highly versatile and not dependent on the weather. They can be assembled in factories and ready-made for various functions in diverse geographical settings.

Small reactors are being planned and manufactured at numerous facilities worldwide from Canada to Russia to China. Although some experts have expressed doubts about the feasibility of SMRs on a large scale globally, members of the consortium headed by Rolls-Royce, which includes industry heavyweight Siemens and the UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory, envision a bright future for the technology and its manufacturers.

By branching out into manufacturing SMRs for domestic use as well as global sales, Britain’s low-carbon energy industry could “become a global player,” the consortium says. In the process, the country’s economy could benefit from a windfall in excess of £250 billion in exports as nations around the planet will come to embrace advanced low-carbon technologies like small nuclear reactors to reduce their carbon emissions.

“By manufacturing the vast majority of the components required for new power stations within state-of-the-art facilities and then combining them on site, the consortium’s modular power plant also represents an ideal export opportunity,” Rolls-Royce says.

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