Rolls-Royce seeks to progress mini nuclear plants by site visits

FILE PHOTO: European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE) in Geneva

LONDON (Reuters) - British engineering company Rolls-Royce has begun to assess potential sites for mini nuclear reactors it aims to connect to the country's power grid by the end of the decade.

Rolls-Royce wants to transform Britain's energy market by putting its small modular reactors (SMRs), built more quickly and cheaply than large-scale reactors, at different sites around the country as part of a drive to reach net zero carbon emissions.

Energy supply has also become a key focus since Russia's invasion of Ukraine drove costs sharply higher, giving extra impetus to the case for SMRs.

Britain also needs to replace ageing nuclear plants as all but one of its nuclear sites, which generate around 13% of the country's electricity, are scheduled to close by 2030.

Rolls-Royce, whose main business is making engines for large passenger jets, said on Friday that senior representatives had looked at two potential sites in southwest England where its SMR power stations could be located.

The company is keen to start formal negotiations with the government over funding for the next phase to build a factory to make the SMRs.

"It is vital that we maintain the momentum we have created and move from development into deployment," SMR's Chief Operating Officer David White said in a statement.

Britain already backed a $546 million funding round in Rolls's SMRs in 2021.

"We are looking to agree a route forward with government to enable us to start building British factories, commissioning supply chain contracts and agreeing export deals abroad as soon as possible," White added.

Small modular reactors 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. The power plants will be about the size of two soccer fields and power one million homes.

Rolls-Royce has short-listed three sites for the factory to make the SMRs, two in the northeast of England and one in north Wales.

(Reporting by Sarah Young; Editing by David Goodman and Tomasz Janowski)