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Rolls-Royce expects UK approval for small nuclear reactors by mid-2024

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Rolls-Royce is to start building parts for its small modular nuclear reactors in anticipation of receiving regulatory approval from the British government by 2024, one of its directors has said.

Paul Stein, the chairman of Rolls-Royce SMR, a subsidiary of the FTSE 100 engineering company, said he hoped to be providing power to the UK’s national grid by 2029.

Small modular reactors (SMRs) are seen by their proponents as a way to build nuclear power plants in factories, a method that could be cheaper and quicker than traditional designs. The technology, based on the reactors used in nuclear submarines, is seen by Rolls-Royce as a potential earner far beyond any previous business such as jet engines or diesel motors.

The government under Boris Johnson put nuclear power at the centre of its energy strategy announced earlier this month, in response to climate concerns and a desire to ditch Russian gas.

SMRs are expected to play an inportant role in an expansion of nuclear to supply a quarter of the UK’s energy needs. Lower costs would be crucial in justifying the nuclear push, given that onshore wind is seen as much cheaper and quicker to install.

Speaking to Reuters in an interview conducted virtually, Stein said the regulatory “process has been kicked off, and will likely be complete in the middle of 2024. We are trying to work with the UK government, and others to get going now placing orders, so we can get power on grid by 2029.”

Other companies are also planning to build SMRs, including the US’s Westinghouse.

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