The Rolls Royce of Nuclear Reactors Just might be – Rolls Royce

April 21, 2022

Or not.
I truly wish them luck, but there are hurdles.
One that seems particularly daunting is that the idea is to mass produce small reactors in order to gain economies of scale. So the first one is getting $546 million.
At what point do the “economies of scale” kick in? at 2 or 3, 10, or a hundred reactors?
Who finances the production of those first few dozen reactors?
Also, what if you produce a few dozen, then find out that, like the Boeing 737 Max, there’s a critical flaw?
Back to square one?


Britain has backed a $546 million Rolls-Royce funding round to develop the country’s first small modular nuclear reactor, in a drive to reach net zero carbon emissions and promote new technology with export potential.

Hitting its emissions goal by 2050 requires a huge increase in low-carbon power generation such as wind, solar and nuclear, but while large-scale new nuclear projects have struggled for funding, Britain is now banking on smaller versions.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the UK to deploy more low carbon energy than ever before and ensure greater energy independence,” Britain’s Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said on Tuesday.

Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) can be made in factories, with parts small enough to be transported on trucks and barges and assembled more quickly and cheaply than large-scale ones.

Each mini plant can power around 1 million homes and Rolls-Royce (RR.L)forecast that the SMR business could create up to 40,000 jobs based on British and export demand.

It said the global export potential was “unprecedented”, fitting with a government plan to increase clean tech jobs as part of its so-called green industrial revolution.

Britain wants to reduce power generated from gas, a desire strengthened by this year’s dramatic price rise, which has resulted in several small energy suppliers going bust.

It is also seeking to replace aging nuclear plants, with all but one of Britain’s existing nuclear fleet, which provide around 20% of the country’s electricity, set to close by 2030.

The SMRs will not be available until the early 2030s and all new nuclear power projects need approval from Britain’s Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and its Generic Design Assessment, which can take around four years to complete for large plants.

Greenpeace criticised the government’s 210 million pounds ($283 million) investment, which is being made alongside 195 million pounds ($263 million) from Rolls-Royce and two partners, BNF Resources UK and Exelon Generation, over three years.

“The immediate deadline for action is sharp cuts in emissions by 2030, and small reactors will have no role in that,” Greenpeace chief scientist Dr Doug Parr said.

6 Responses to “The Rolls Royce of Nuclear Reactors Just might be – Rolls Royce”

  1. Anthony O'Brien Says:

    Just like fusion reactors, modular reactors have been around the corner for fifty years. But everyone wants the bespoke reactor. Where do the savings kick in? Reactor number two, and from there the savings keep growing.

    Solar and wind are cheaper and are here now. Not just a little bit cheaper, massively cheaper. So while there are big savings with modular reactors over bespoke reactors, solar and wind are still cheaper.

  2. J4Zonian Says:

    Turns out what RR is looking for is actually the Economies of Niche. That seems less…cheap.

    But it also turns out that Rolls Royce is maybe not the people to be reinventing the deal. You could go with Acme Reactors…but then you have the success rate of Wile E. Coyote, which please trust me is not a good look in nuclear reactors.

    So what the industry is looking for really is a shortcut past…whateverthehell it is that’s stopping them, which turns out to be the inherent contradictions of dominating the universe. And shortcuts aren’t a good look in the technology of deadly materials either.

  3. John Oneill Says:

    ‘…what if you produce a few dozen, then find out that, like the Boeing 737 Max, there’s a critical flaw?’
    Despite the MAX, and an average hundred or so deaths a year, aircraft keep flying – even now we know their other critical flaw, helping to trash the climate. Reactors save a net thousands of deaths a year, from avoided air pollution, and help reduce warming. The Greens in Germany are beating the usual safety drum, that they can’t save the 4 gigawatts of nuclear due to be shut at the end of the year – or restart the 4 GW shut on December 31st – even with climate change and burning a billion dollars worth of Russian fuel a day, because Ukraine shows how dangerous reactors are. Actually, Ukraine shows that, even subject to invasion and bombardment, nuclear can keep supplying 60% of the country’s power without emissions of either radiation or CO2. And even though the reactors are Russian -designed, they’re impervious to fuel blackmail – they hold a year and a half’s worth in the core, and have switched to US suppliers.

    • J4Zonian Says:

      All psychopaths are not equal. The fact that Putin didn’t blackmail with fuel this time, or destroy—even just to make people suffer—doesn’t mean the US can’t, and if they can and they want something, they will. Despite strong efforts from all over, the US is still the main evil in the world. The fact that apparently neither Putin nor any rogue commanders ordered destruction of any reactors so far doesn’t mean they won’t, or wouldn’t, and it doesn’t mean no one else will, including the bipartisan psychopaths in charge of the US. It certainly doesn’t mean that in the chaos that is war it won’t happen accidentally.

      Trump is risking what’s left of US democracy, and thus any chance of avoiding the end of civilization in the next half century, just to protect his ego from the blow it would take if he admitted he lost the election. He is literally risking all life on Earth to avoid feeling some bad feelings.

      Knowing that, no one could possibly make a case that Trump, Putin, Le Pen, Erdoğan, Lukashenko, Xi, Al Saud, Bolsonaro, Assad, Jong-Un, or any of the other hundreds of dictators, would-be and will-be dictators, and terrorists will never destroy a reactor, processing facility, mine, or steal and use or sell radioactive material. The only way to make sure they don’t, in a crumbling world turning ever more to autocracy for a false feeling of safety, is to not have any. We can’t erase the mistakes we’ve made (or allowed) but there are already too many military & waste sites to worry about. It’s insane to be building more unnecessary terrorist and state terrorist targets and future unprotected waste sites. The idea that the US, Brazil, South Africa… are free is ridiculous.

      We’re running out of time to hold Donald Trump accountable
      Robert Reich

      • John Oneill Says:

        Climate change is the challenge of our time, not the tiny amounts of military radioactive waste. The even tinier quantities of spent civilian fuel have never harmed a person or animal, and turning them into a terror weapon would only work for someone, like yourself, who was working real hard at being terrified. Putin would be very unwise to try to breach a reactor, since that would get as big a reaction as using a tactical nuclear weapon, but without any of the tactical advantage. It would also nullify years of work to convince the Russian people that Russian (or Soviet)-designed reactors, like the ones in Ukraine, are safe. Russia still has nine Chernobyl-type RBMK reactors, as well as the pressurised water ones found in Ukraine and most other countries. Say what you like about the RBMK, it killed fewer people in one accident, 1986 et sequelae, than the lignite burners powering Germany do every year.

      • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

        Despite strong efforts from all over, the US is still the main evil in the world.

        OK, we’re done.

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