Rolls-Royce among six firms shortlisted for British small nuclear plants

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Rolls-Royce is pictured at the World Nuclear Exhibition (WNE), the trade fair event for the global nuclear community in Villepinte near Paris

LONDON (Reuters) -Rolls-Royce and five other firms have passed the first stage of Britain's competition to select developers of small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs), the government said on Monday.

Britain is seeking increase its nuclear power capacity to 24 gigawatts (GW) by 2050 as part of efforts to meet climate targets and boost energy security, representing about a quarter of projected electricity demand versus about 14% today.

Large new nuclear projects with high upfront costs have struggled to attract financing and the government hopes some older plants could be replaced by a fleet of SMRs that can be made in factories with lower costs and faster construction.

The government in July opened a competition to help develop the technology with the aim of deploying projects in the 2030s.

EDF, GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy International, Holtec Britain, NuScale Power, and Westinghouse Electric Company UK were the other companies chosen for the next stage of the process.

Rolls-Royce, whose main business is making engines for large passenger jets, is the only company whose SMR technology is under review by European regulators.

"Securing a domestic contract is vitally important to unlock the enormous global export potential of our clean energy technology," Rolls-Royce Group President and SMR division CEO Chris Cholerton said in a statement.

SMRs can be built more quickly and cheaply than large-scale reactors, with parts small enough to be transported on trucks and barges.

The government said it would launch the next stage of the competition as soon as possible and hopes to announce in spring 2024 which of the six companies would be supported with contracts awarded by summer 2024.

(Reporting by Susanna Twidale and Farouq Suleiman; Editing by Richard Chang and Jamie Freed)