Small scale nuclear to get green light this week

By Simon Jack
Business editor

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Artist's impression of a small nuclear power stationImage source, Rolls-Royce
Image caption,
Artist's impression of a small nuclear power station

Reactor designer Rolls-Royce will announce that a consortium of investors will back plans for a new smaller nuclear reactor project.

As part of its 10 point green energy plan, the government has already announced it would provide £210m in funding if that could be matched by private capital.

An announcement that money has been raised could come as soon as Tuesday.

Around 21% of Britain's electricity supply is provided by nuclear power.

The plan is thought to include the construction of an initial four Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) based on the technology used in nuclear powered submarines.

These reactors will be capable of generating nearly 500 megawatts of power - three times as much as much as most existing nuclear submarine reactors but more than six times less than the 3.2 gigawatts that the large plant under construction at Hinkley Point will deliver. Hinkley is expected to produce enough power to supply 6 million homes.

The investment to be announced on Tuesday is intended to fund the project up to the stage where the reactor design receives approval. No decision has yet been made on how the construction cost will be financed.

At an expected ultimate cost of around £2bn each, they should cost less than a tenth of the £20bn each of Hinkley and an anticipated, but not yet approved, sister plant at Sizewell in Suffolk.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Hinkley Point nuclear power station

Industry sources say they hope that these SMRs would be operational within a decade.

Advocates of SMRs say their smaller size means they can be built in a controlled factory setting and installed module by module, reducing risk and cost.

These reactors are not expected to be a substitute for another large-scale nuclear plant the government has said it is determined to approve this parliament - but in addition.

The planned locations of these SMRs is not expected to be confirmed this week but industry sources suggest that existing nuclear sites are the obvious candidates.