Rolls-Royce backs small modular nuclear reactors

U.K.-based engineering company Rolls-Royce is throwing its support behind NuScale Power and its submission for U.S. federal funds to help build and commercialize its small modular reactor (SMR).

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) intends to fund up to two designs for SMRs through a cost-shared partnership that will support engineering, design certification and licensing. While the first round of funding was allocated to Babcock & Wilcox Co. (B&W) in late 2012, the DoE is now reviewing applications under a second round. NuScale Power is one of several SMR developers that have applied for the second round of funding.

Involved in the U.K.’s naval nuclear program since 1959, Rolls-Royce has a nuclear skills base with an existing nuclear-certified supply chain. The company lists fuel handling, reactor maintenance, re-fuelling processes, non-destructive examination techniques and what it says are “unique decommissioning and waste handling capabilities” amongst its offerings to the nuclear industry.

NuScale is developing a 45 MWe self-contained pressurized water reactor and generator set, which would be factory made and shipped for deployment in sets of up to 12. These could result in scalable nuclear power plants with capacities from 45 MWe to 540 MWe. Using conventional fuel assemblies, the core would be cooled by natural circulation, requiring fewer components and safety systems than conventional reactors.

In November 2012, the Babcock & Wilcox (B&W) mPower reactor was selected as the winner of the first round of funding, receiving access to $79 million to commercially demonstrate the design by 2022. A second round of funding was announced in March 2013, with the deadline for proposals being 1 July.

Other SMR developers to submit proposals under the second round of federal funds include Westinghouse, Holtec International and Hybrid Power Technologies.

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