Rolls-Royce Nixes its UK Pressure Vessel Plans

Image: Rolls-Royce

Rolls-Royce has reversed course on its plan to construct at least one nuclear facility in the UK, citing ongoing delays in a government design competition for its SMR program. 

The initial proposal included two factories, but the company is scrapping plans for a pressure vessel manufacturing facility due to time constraints. Rolls-Royce will now procure heavy-pressure vessels from third-party suppliers.

“Rolls-Royce SMR is a factory-built solution and will need to use a range of facilities, managed by ourselves and by our supply chain,” Dan Gould, a spokesperson for Rolls-Royce SMR, told Ignition via email. “We have prioritized work on our Modules Assembly & Test Facility, where we will bring together components from the supply chain for fabrication into modules which are then taken to site for assembly into the finished power plant.”

In October 2023, the luxury car brand awarded a contract to Westinghouse, a Pittsburgh-based electric company and leader in nuclear tech, to develop a fuel design for its SMR. The design work was undertaken jointly in the UK and US. 

Still on the table: Rolls Royce plans to build a second factory focused on building modular units for SMRs.

The company could revisit its plans for a pressure vessel factory, depending on the establishment of a robust order pipeline.

A nuclear future for the UK: Gould said that investment opportunities still lie ahead, as the British government set a target of up to 24 GWe of nuclear-generating capacity by 2050, accounting for about 25% of the country’s projected electricity demand.

“The components that would be produced by a Heavy Pressure Vessels factory can be sourced from the supply chain in the short term but, with a sufficient fleet commitment in the UK and overseas, there is further opportunity for investment in additional factory infrastructure,” he said.

And while government delays have seemed to have hindered Rolls-Royce’s SMR plans, the UK Department of Energy Security and Net Zero maintains that its SMR competition aims to be the fastest of its kind and will help secure billions in investment for the UK. 

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