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Rolls-Royce all set to unveil British SMR consortium

Rolls-Royce will in the "coming weeks" announce the consortium it has formed to launch a small modular reactor in the UK, a spokesman for the British company told World Nuclear News today. The consortium could provide a £100 billion ($127 billion) boost to the UK economy because the companies involved are either UK-owned or have a strong UK presence, the spokesman added.

Last November, the UK government announced plans to invest at least £250 million over the next five years in a nuclear research and development program including a competition to identify the best value SMR design for the UK. The first phase of that competition, a call for initial expressions of interest, was launched in March. It has also announced that an SMR Delivery Roadmap will be published later this year.

Rolls-Royce has submitted a paper to the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, outlining its plan to develop a fleet of 7 GWe of SMRs with its consortium, the spokesman said.

"We firmly believe a UK SMR program presents a once in a lifetime opportunity for UK nuclear companies to be involved in the design, manufacture and building of next generation reactors for our needs at home and to access a huge global opportunity," he said. "It's in the government's hands with regards to the timetable of our announcement."

The British character of the consortium is important, the spokesman said, because the jobs "will be rooted here" which will give a "significant boost" to the UK's nuclear supply chain and export potential. This is particularly relevant, he said, in view of Prime Minister Theresa May's announcement yesterday that the UK will begin the formal Brexit negotiation process by the end of March 2017. The timing on triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty means the UK looks set to leave the European Union by summer 2019.

Other participants in the UK's SMR competition include French-owned EDF Energy and its Chinese partner CNNC, Westinghouse and the US developer NuScale Power.

NuScale and Sheffield Forgemasters International Ltd (SFIL) announced in July they will work together to develop the manufacturing techniques required for the future deployment of SMRs in the UK. SFIL will forge a large civil nuclear reactor vessel head by the end of 2017, as part of a program supported by Innovate UK, the UK's innovation agency, to develop and validate innovative forging and fabrication solutions for the nuclear industry. NuScale Power said it is providing funding to support the use of the geometries required by its innovative SMR design.

Led by SFIL, the project has five contributing partners, which include Rolls-Royce Plc, but the Rolls-Royce spokesman said today this is separate to its own submission of an SMR solution to UK government.

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