Lancashire nuclear fuel jobs may get lift as Rolls Royce powers up for start of small reactor project

Another potential stream of work in the future for Lancashire nuclear fuel makers has taken a step forward.

By Tim Gavell
Wednesday, 10th November 2021, 12:30 pm

Rolls Royce is set to go ahead with its plan to develop small modular reactors to power the national grid after it together with BNF Resources UK and Exelon Generation announced investment of £195m over three years.

The fund will enable the business to secure grants of £210m from UK Research and Innovation, first announced by the UK Prime Minister in ‘The Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution’.

The business, which will continue to seek further investment, will submit designs for the power stations to the UK Generic Design Assessment process and identify factories which will manufacture the modules that enable on-site assembly of the power plants which will be smaller than current sites.

A computer image of Rolls Royce's small modular reactors

Warren East, Rolls-Royce chief executive, said: “The SMR programme is one of the ways that Rolls-Royce is meeting the need to ensure the UK continues to develop innovative ways to tackle the global threat of climate change.

With the Rolls-Royce SMR technology, we have developed a clean energy solution which can deliver cost competitive and scalable net zero power for multiple applications from grid and industrial electricity production to hydrogen and synthetic fuel manufacturing.

"The business could create up to 40,000 jobs, through UK deployment and export enabled growth."

Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: "In working with Rolls-Royce, we are proud to back the largest engineering

collaboration the UK has ever seen - uniting some of the most respected and innovating organisations on the planet. Not only can we maximise British content, create new intellectual property and reinvigorate supply chains, but also position our country as a global leader in innovative nuclear technologies we can potentially export elsewhere."

While no details of which firms would supply the fuel for the new small reactors, Rolls Royce said it would be looking generally to use UK companies and staff first for the project as it develops and becomes available to the UK grid in the early 2030s..

That would give nuclear fuel workers at Westinghouse's Springfields factory at Salwick, between Preston and Blackpool, a possibility of a new customer in years to come.

Concerns have been raised about jobs and skills being lost at the UK's only nuclear fuel maker as the ageing power stations it originally was set up to supply are going offline, leaving a worrying gap before any news ones start up.

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