Rolls-Royce SMR – Pioneering the new wave of small reactors

Tom Samson CEO Rolls Royce SMR

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Tom has 30 years of experience in the power industry in various senior level executive positions in the UK and internationally. Prior to his current Rolls-Royce SMR role, he was CEO and Board member at NuGeneration, which was responsible for developing a new nuclear power station at Moorside in Cumbria.

Rolls-Royce SMR was created six years ago with a small, driven team of 15. Their goal was to create a ‘low-cost, deliverable, global, sustainable and investible” small nuclear reactor. Now the fast growth of the SMR business has seen the payroll expand to more than 350 employees and the expectation is that it will reach 700 by the end of this year.

Low-cost nuclear

The SMR business aims at an exportable product that, as a process, is investible with a low construction risk. Rolls-Royce SMR’s unique selling point is that 90 per cent of the reactor will be built in factory conditions. This ‘off-the-shelf nuclear supply chain’ will mean quicker production and faster construction. The first SMR is expected to take four to five years, but thereafter two will be produced every year, which is the great benefit of factory process speed. Current unit costs are around £2.2 billion then will drop to £1.8 billion, again due to the factory process.

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Rolls-Royce SMR power station will have the capacity to generate 470MW of low carbon energy, equivalent to more than 150 onshore wind turbines

Low-cost nuclear

The SMR business aims at an exportable product that, as a process, is investible with a low construction risk. Rolls-Royce SMR’s unique selling point is that 90 per cent of the reactor will be built in factory conditions. This ‘off-the-shelf nuclear supply chain’ will mean quicker production and faster construction. The first SMR is expected to take four to five years, but thereafter two will be produced every year, which is the great benefit of factory process speed. Current unit costs are around £2.2 billion then will drop to £1.8 billion, again due to the factory process.

"enough electricity to power Leeds"

Imminent approval

The design for the SMR has been submitted to the regulatory body for review and approval. Rolls-Royce hope that power from the SMR’s themselves will be in the grid by 2030. While waiting for approval, work on planning, negotiating and securing investment will all be run in parallel to enable them to move quickly once approval is granted. Currently Rolls-Royce SMR are reviewing factory sites and have received many location applications. The SMR business is looking for a site near colleges to provide apprenticeship opportunities and where local skill bases can be utilised to create both jobs and opportunities while providing a boost to the local economy.

The SMR is designed to be a road transportable solution, to minimise construction at site. The power stations themselves are 470 megawatts, which is enough electricity to power Leeds. This is the largest possible size of output and small enough to be transportable by road. As a commercial product, it will allow the SMRs to be readily exportable around both the UK and abroad.

Cornering the market

Rolls-Royce SMR acknowledge that nuclear is a ‘national imperative’ and their ‘low-cost deliverable’ product is unique to the market. It can strengthen energy security through the reactors’ rapid factory production. The SMR programme will not only pump electricity into the national grid, it will also have contracts in the private sector to enhance the commercial product as a whole.

Unique Product

Rolls-Royce SMR have taken a proven reactor type and applied modern manufacturing methods to deliver a transportable, low-cost, sustainable and unique product with low construction risk and a quick production time. It will produce energy for both the public and private sector and create an investible, exportable product for the global market.

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