Rolls Royce is investing in mini-nuclear powers stations that will have less than 10% of the capacity of the Hinkley Point plant to capitalise on the UK government’s planned new industrial strategy.
The Hinkley Point nuclear power station will have an electricity output of 3,260 MW. So-called small modular reactors (SMRs) will typically have an output of 300 MW, or less.
Rolls Royce is moving employees from work on its Trident submarine project to SMRs.
The Sunday Times quoted a Rolls Royce spokesmen as saying: “We look to grow our nuclear business, we have been able to allocate people to different projects to serve our business needs and offer development opportunities. Delivering upon our commitments to the government for the successor programme is our number one priority and is never compromised."
SMRs have a key advantage over the much bigger nuclear stations. Because they are so much smaller, and thus potentially more numerous, they offer an opportunity for companies to secure greater benefits from specialisation – it’s the Henry Ford thing all over again, mass assembly production revolutionized the car industry, it may have been the single biggest driver of economic growth in the 20th century.
Renewable energy products such as wind turbines and solar power score over nuclear power because their manufacture is subjected to mass production and as a result, their cost continues to fall over time. Whereas, the cost of conventional nuclear power has been rising, over time.
Clearly, SMRs are not quite like that. A single SMR will have the electricity output of several hundred wind turbines, but they do offer this massive mass production benefit over conventional nuclear power.
They also score over the larger plants because they create less waste per unit of output.
According to Wikipedia: “many SMRs are fast reactors that are designed to have higher fuel burnup rates, reducing the amount of waste produced.”