Millions secured for new nuclear technology and MP pushes to bring it to Cumbria

09/11/2021. Artist's impression of a Small Modular Reactor. Rolls-Royce.
Artist's impression of a power station with a small modular reactor (SMR). Credit: Rolls-Royce

More than £400m is being invested in a project to develop a new model of nuclear reactor.

Rolls-Royce has announced today that it is is setting up a new business dedicated to small modular reactors (SMRs), which the company has said will deliver "low cost, low carbon nuclear power technology".

Copeland's Conservative MP Trudy Harrison has said she will push for an SMR to be built in her constituency.

The funding for the reactors is made up of £210m from the Government through its agency UK Research and Innovation with a further £195m committed from the private sector through Rolls-Royce itself, BNF Resources UK and Exelon Generation.

Mrs Harrison said: “SMRs will deliver clean, low-carbon, affordable energy and will play a significant role in our net zero ambitions. Ever since I was elected in 2017, I have campaigned strongly to have SMRs located in Copeland, and following today’s significant announcement, I will continue to take the case forward with colleagues in Government, industry and the local authorities.

An SMR's size would equate to the same area as two football pitches, according to Rollls-Royce, which has also said one would power 1m homes. This is significantly smaller than traditional reactors such as the one under construction at Hinkley Point in Somerset.

Ministers hope these will be cheaper to build than traditional nuclear setups because of their smaller size and that they could be operational by the 2030s.

Rolls-Royce has said up to 40,000 jobs could be created through the investment.

In a statement to the London Stock Exchange the firm said

The announcement comes after three former Tory energy ministers came together to argue that the UN COP26 climate summit, currently taking place in Glasgow, needs to accept that nuclear power, along with hydrogen, should play a greater role in the global energy mix if net zero targets are to be hit.

A report by Conservative MP Chris Skidmore - backed by former energy secretary Amber Rudd and Claire Perry, who had initially been nominated as COP26 president before the role was given to Alok Sharma - said the conference in Scotland should "open its eyes to the combined value of nuclear and hydrogen as a complementary strategy alongside renewable energy".

Ms Rudd, who has co-written the foreword to the report, due to be launched in Glasgow today, said: "Key clean sources of power such as nuclear will be instrumental for net zero, and as the report sets out, can potentially open up a new supply of hydrogen for a green revolution."

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has said this investment is a "once in a lifetime" opportunity. Credit: PA Images

Business Secretary Mr Kwarteng said: "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.

"Small modular reactors offer exciting opportunities to cut costs and build more quickly, ensuring we can bring clean electricity to people's homes and cut our already-dwindling use of volatile fossil fuels even further.

"By harnessing British engineering and ingenuity, we can double down on our plan to deploy more home-grown, affordable clean energy in this country."<

Rolls-Royce chief executive Warren East said: "With the Roll- Royce SMR technology, we have developed a clean energy solution which can deliver cost competitive and scalable net zero power for multiple applications from grid and industrial electricity production to hydrogen and synthetic fuel manufacturing.

The £210m in funding is part of the £385m Advanced Nuclear Fund, which was announced last year in Prime Minister Boris Johnson's 10 point plan for a so-called "green industrial revolution".

It follows on from the Chancellor announcing in the Spending Review that £1.7bn will be made available to bring at least one large-scale nuclear project to a final investment decision.

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