Rolls-Royce to Focus on Competitive Costs in UK for 440 MWe LWR Nuclear Reactor

  • The firm targets the end of this decade for roll out of its 440 MWe design
  • Romania curtails China agreement for Cernavoda and US makes a pitch for the business, but SNC Lavalin gets the nod for refurbishment of Unit 1
  • Egyptia media  reports first concrete for El Dabaa’s 4 1200 MWe VVERs planned in 2020

rolls royve logoWhile there is plenty of excitement in the U.S. over SMRs and micro reactors, across the pond in the U.K. the competition has not been asleep at the wheel. What Rolls-Royce says it is doing is taking commercial off the shelf components for light water reactors and bolting them together into a 440 MWe affordable package with a relentless focus on being competitive in terms of costs.

Paul Stein, chief technology officer for Rolls-Royce, told the BBC this week the British engineering firm has a target of 2029 for commissioning small modular reactors (SMRs) in the UK. The ambition is part of the country’s aim to achieve net zero by 2050, initially using former nuclear power sites in Cumbria and Wales.

If successful the project might break the funding stalemate that has brought work to a halt at several UK new build projects due to the high costs of reactors several orders of magnitude larger and way more costly than the Rolls-Royce design.

At an estimated overnight cost of $5,000/Kw, the Rolls-Royce 440 MWe unit would come in at $2.2 billion. By comparison, the proposed twin 1350 MW ABWRs for the Moorside project, led by by Japan’s Hitachi, had projected costs that soared into the stratosphere.

In August 2015 for Moorside the price tag had reached $20 billion for project.  Hitachi and its investors said they could not take the risk of further cost escalation and told the UK government it could not proceed with the project as a result.

Proponents of new nuclear builds might find the Rolls-Royce offer more affordable assuming the firm can deliver at its promised price. The government is considering the new RAB financial method of paying for new reactors, but the policy is not in place.

Rolls-Royce is leading a consortium for its SMR project, which comprises Assystem, Atkins, BAM Nuttall, Laing O’Rourke, National Nuclear Laboratory, Nuclear AMRC, Rolls-Royce, Wood and The Welding Institute.

Stein waxed enthusiastically in his BBC interview about the firm’s plans.

“Our plan is to get energy on the grid in 2029. The obvious sites to put them are what we call brownfeld sites; sites where we’re running elderly or decommissioned nuclear power stations. There are two sites in Wales and one in the northwest of England. Eventually in the UK we’ll be rolling out 10 to 15. We’re also looking to a significant export market. ”

The consortium calculates it can get the cost of a nuclear power station producing 440 MWe to about GBP1.75 billion, ($2.29 billion)($5,200/Kw) which means being able to sell electricity at below GBP60/MWh ($78.44/MWh).

&&& Note to readers – calculating the levelized cost of electricity depends on complex calculations and assumptions.  See for instance this DOE EIA Analysis  for various power sources in 2019. &&& 

“Levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) represents the average revenue per unit of electricity generated that would be required to recover the costs of building and operating a generating plant during an assumed financial life and duty cycle.  LCOE is often cited as a convenient summary measure of the overall competitiveness of different generating technologies.”

In November last year, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) announced it was providing initial match funding to the Rolls Royce consortium. Stein said he has already received letters of intent from foreign governments and private equity firms. UKRI said that an initial GBP36 million joint public and private investment, with GBP18 million of the investment from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, will enable the consortium to further develop their design.

The consortium will probably need to see a couple of zeros added to the combined GBP54 million to complete the design and take it through the four year long perilously complex and expensive UK generic design review (GDR) process.

In an effort to differentiate the conventional LWR technology that is making up the design basis of the Rolls Royce unit from advanced sodium cooled or molten salt designs, Stein said the consortium has taken a “rather different” approach to the “science-based project approaches” of some of its competitors in SMRs.

“Our desire has not been to create a new nuclear reactor. In fact, the design of the nuclear reactor is one that we’ve been running for many, many years in nuclear power stations around the world. It’s been relentless focus on cost and it’s the first time that’s been done – to take a look at a whole power station design and not just the nuclear island, also the other parts of the power station, and the civil engineering construction, and the time from starting it to finishing it.”

Stein said the consortium has confidence in its numbers. Now all he has to do to prove them is to build one.

Romania / Prime Minister Says Cernavodă Deal
with China Will Be Called Off

Government ‘has already started looking for a new partner’ for the project

(NucNet) Romania’s government will cancel a deal with China for the construction of reactors 3 and 4 at the Cernavodă nuclear power station, prime minister Ludovic Orban said this week in an interview with Hotnews.ro.

“It is clear to me that the partnership with the Chinese company is not going to work,” Mr Orban said, adding that the government has already started to look for a new partner and financing for this project.

He also said that all new projects in Romania’s energy sector will depend on whether they meet the requirements of the European Union’s Green Deal, an initiative aimed at reducing CO2 emissions across the bloc.

The EU acknowledges member states’ right to decide on the technologies they will use in an effort to meet climate objectives, including nuclear.

History of the China Agreement

In 2015, Romanian state-owned electricity producer Nuclearelectrica, the company that operates the Cernavodă nuclear station, signed a memorandum of understanding with China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) for the construction of two new  CANDU PHWR type reactors.  Canada’s SNC Lavalin, as the global source of expertise on this design, was also brought into the deal.

Candu schematic

Romania operates two Candu 6 reactors at the Cernavoda plant. Unit 1 started up in 1996, but work was suspended on a further four units in 1991. Unit 2 was subsequently completed and has been in operation since 2007. For this reason is made sense to finish Cernavoda uits 3 &4 which are also PHWR type designs.

In May Nuclearelectrica and CGN signed an agreement to set up a joint venture project company for the planned completion of the two units. CGN would have held a 51% stake in the company with Nuclearelectrica holding the remaining 49%.

The deal apparently became problematic for several reasons none of which were confirmed at press time by the government nor by the utility.  The cost of the project may have been the reason along with differences over the financial terms.

Also, it remains a mystery why China did not push its new 1000 MW PWR the Hualong One, or maybe it did so behind the scenes.  China’s efforts to push the design in Argentina against the tide of that country’s existing CANDU type PHWRs is on hold due to financial issues caused by gyrations in Argentina’s economy.

Last August the US added four Chinese nuclear entities to a trade blacklist, accusing them of helping to acquire advanced US technology for military use in China. The four were CGN and its subsidiaries China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGNPC), China Nuclear Power Technology Research Institute Company and Suzhou Nuclear Power Research Institute Company.

The case in point is the espionage conviction of a former TVA engineer who sold US nuclear technology information to China without the necessary clearances from the Department of Energy and other agencies.

Press reports in Romania this week referred to the blacklisting, but did not say whether it was one of the reasons for the cancelling of the contract.  Meanwhile, the US has been busy courting the Romanian government for nuclear export deals.

US Courts Romania for Nuclear Export Business

Romanian prime minister Viorica Dăncilă and US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry signed in New York on September 24 a memorandum of understanding between Romania and the United States on strategic nuclear nuclear cooperation.

Romania’s 123 Agreement with the UScomes under the umbrella of the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). This agreement allows US firms to export specific nuclear technologies to that country.

World Nuclear News reported that the Romanian government said the MoU will serve as a basis for encouraging bilateral cooperation in the promotion of state-of-the-art technologies in the nuclear field, radioactive waste management, development of the nuclear medicines sector, and research activities on the applicability of developing nuclear technologies in physics, biology, and agriculture.

In a separate development Candu Energy Inc., a member of the SNC-Lavalin Group (TSX:SNC), was awarded a $10.8 million (7.3M EUR) contract by Societatea Nationala Nuclearelectrica S.A. (SNN) for engineering analyses and assessments on the Cernavoda Unit 1 CANDU® nuclear reactor. The contracthas the objective of extending the operating life of the plant by approximately 4 years which will enable the plant to continue operating safely until it is ready for refurbishment in 2026.

First Concrete Expected at Egypt’s El Dabaa Project

NBN Media, a consulting firm based in Cyprus, reports that the Egyptian newspaper “Al-Youm Al-Sabee”  interviewed Mohamed Ramadan, the general manager of the El Dabaa nuclear power plant project, In December 2019. In the interview he reportedly confirmed that the Russian company Rosatom, which is responsible for the construction of the plant, has already started the drilling work for laying concrete foundations for the nuclear reactors.

Ramadan is quoted as having added, “It is expected that the concrete foundations for the first reactor will be set in the middle of next year (2020).”

H said that this work will take place once the project gets a permit from the Egyptian Nuclear & Radiological Regulatory Authority (ENRRA), and that that permit is expected this winter.

El Dabaa NPP will consist of 4 1200 MWe VVER type nuclear reactors. There are units of this type that are already operating in Russia in the nuclear plants at Novovoronezh and Leningrad.

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3 Responses to Rolls-Royce to Focus on Competitive Costs in UK for 440 MWe LWR Nuclear Reactor

  1. Pingback: Rolls-Royce to Focus on Competitive Costs in UK for 440 MWe LWR Nuclear Reactor - Neutron Bytes - Pro-Nuclear Power Blogs - Nuclear Street - Nuclear Power Plant News, Jobs, and Careers

  2. brianrlcatt says:

    $5B/GW is pretty much the deal figures around the World over the last decade. If you ignore the nonsense prices in over regulated environrments in the “Developed” West. Where there are more technically rational governments and the green lunatics of XR/Greens/Thunbergers are under the control they should be, prices are a sensible $5B/GW. The message is obvious. End the ability of functioning idiots to obstruct progress to capable long term, all we need, non polluting energy. Perhaps ship them all to a Island far away, populated by similarly delusional green idiots.. Like nuclear free Australia?

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  3. Colin Megson says:

    “”…The consortium calculates it can get the cost of a nuclear power station producing 440 MWe to about…….($5,200/Kw)…””

    UK politics will need to step in to give R-R any chance of market share, in straight competition with GE-Hitachi’s BWRX-300 SMR. FOAK operational in 2027; maybe by 2030, with factory-stage production, the NOAK will be down to $2,000/kW.

    IMHO, Paul Stein and investors would be well advised to consider the proposition that R-R’s SMR, and only then with Government backing, might have its sales confined within the borders of the UK. By comparison, there must be a real prospect of R-R manufacturing the BWRX-300, in its entirety, under licence, to become the European [and maybe beyond] supply centre.

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