Engineering giant starts UK regulatory approval process for small modular reactor design following government funding boost
Rolls-Royce is pushing forward with its plans to build a fleet of small nuclear power plants in a bid to support the UK's net zero ambitions, today announcing it has officially started the regulatory approval process for its design of a 470MW small modular reactor (SMR).
The engineering giant has submitted the SMR design to the UK's Generic Design Assessment (GDA) regulatory process, in a bid to secure clearance from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the UK's nuclear and environmental regulatory bodies for the trail-blazing project.
Rolls-Royce said its 470MW SMR station design would have the capacity to provide low carbon energy equivalent to the output of more than 150 onshore wind turbines, while boasting a lifetime of at least 60 years.
It expects the GDA process to take around four to five years, during which time it plans to "engage in a range of parallel activities" including the SMR factory development, potential siting for future nuclear plants, and "commercial discussions".
It comes just over a week after the government announced £210m funding to support the firm's plan to develop an SMR fleet in the UK, matched by £250m private investment.
Advocates of SMRs argue their modular nature mean they have the potential to deliver zero emission power at lower cost and on faster timescales than large scale new nuclear plants, with each SMR capable of providing enough power for around one million homes.
But critics argue the technology remains largely unproven and could be afflicted by the same cost and time overruns that have frequently impacted large scale nuclear projects.
However, the government remains convinced the project proposed by Rolls Royce has the potential to curb emissions and enhance energy security, while complementing the UK's continued renewables roll out.
Helena Perry, regulatory and safety affairs director at Rolls-Royce, said submission of the SMR reactor design into the initial process for regulatory approval marked a UK first, and was therefore "an important moment for the nuclear industry".
"We have already made 270 design decisions during our pre-licensing engagement and are confident of working with the experienced regulatory teams to deliver an efficient GDA process," she said. "We will have around 300 people working full time on these important regulatory processes. Both the industry and regulators have learnt a great deal from previous GDA processes, and we will integrate those lessons into the collaborative approach we will take with the UK regulators."