REVEALED: Sites for revolutionary mini nuclear power stations led by Rolls-Royce are set to be built in the North of England
- Whitehall is planning new small nuclear power plants in Cumbria and Wales
- Britain’s eight large-scale nuclear power plants are reaching their end of life
- Plans to build a new generation of large-scale nuclear power stations are stalled
- Officials hope these smaller power stations will be able to plug the potential gap
The first of a new generation of revolutionary mini nuclear power stations is to be built in the North of England and North Wales by a consortium led by Rolls-Royce, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
A number of existing licensed nuclear sites have already been informally discussed within Whitehall.
The sites under consideration include Moorside in Cumbria and Wylfa in North Wales, where plans for future large-scale reactor projects have recently been shelved.
The government is considering a new generation of revolutionary mini nuclear power stations to be built in the North of England and North Wales by a consortium including Rolls-Royce
The Government is considering introducing a series of smaller nuclear power station because of delays in building major contracts such as the first reactor at Hinkley Point C, pictured, in Bridgewater, Somerset. The reactor is the largest ever concrete pour in Britain
Britain’s eight large-scale nuclear power plants are nearing the end of their collective lifespan, with most due to close by the end of the decade.
Now a consortium led by Rolls-Royce has tabled plans, subject to approval from regulators, to have the first small reactor plugged in by 2030, promising reliable, low-carbon electricity for decades to come.
It will be followed by up to 16 more mini reactors at other sites, with plans for all to be producing electricity.
It is understood that other locations being considered include Trawsfynydd in Snowdonia, North Wales.
Alan Woods, strategy and business development director for Rolls-Royce, would not be drawn on specific sites. But he revealed: ‘We expect to build them in the North and Wales. That’s where we’re focusing, that’s where we’ll put our effort.’
Modular reactors are smaller and, once the first is approved and built, manufacturers hope mass-production will lead to shorter construction times and lower costs for each unit.
Each will produce about a fifth of the energy of the latest generation of large reactors, such as the one being built at Hinkley Point C in Somerset by French energy giant EDF.
The Rolls-Royce consortium will also need to establish factories to produce the small modular reactors, possibly also in the north of Britain where much nuclear expertise still exists – due to the nuclear industry’s long presence in West Cumbria.
The pre-fabricated modules would then be transported to sites for construction. Officials have cautioned, though, that there could be public opposition in some areas to a nuclear facility being built nearby.
Nuclear power currently produces about 20 per cent of the UK’s electricity. It had been hoped that large-scale reactors would boost supply but many around the globe have been beset with delays or huge cost overruns, including Hinkley C.
Work at Wylfa by nuclear developer Horizon, owned by Japanese firm Hitachi, was suspended a year ago amid rising costs. Only months before, plans for a new nuclear power station at Moorside were scrapped after the Japanese giant Toshiba announced it was winding up the project.
A joint investment of £500 million between the Government and the Rolls-Royce consortium was proposed last summer. An initial award from the Government of £18 million was signed off in November, which the consortium will match.
One nuclear industry source said: ‘There is broad support for this programme from Government.’