The Government is considering Wales as a home for mini nuclear reactors and one giant one in an attempt to prevent further energy crises.
Rolls-Royce could be in line for extra support for its small modular reactors rated up to 440MW, as the current energy price crunch heightens focus on bolstering security in Britain’s long-term power supply.
Over the summer the manufacturer secured £210m from private investors for its SMR ambitions, allowing it to unlock matched funding from Whitehall.
A total of £385m was earmarked in research and development grants last year. Talks continue as to how much the consortium will get, raising the possibility of the funds being more than matched by the state.
Sources close to the decision told the Sunday Telegraph that “Rolls-Royce is ahead of the game in terms of tech.” Its status as a British company adds to its attraction for ministers.
Early stages of the project will see the SMRs designed and assessed by regulators. Later steps will be focus on construction. It is understood that the industry hopes for funds and further clarification in next month’s comprehensive spending review to be delivered by the Chancellor.
Sites in Wales may be first to benefit if SMR expansion hits criticality. Nation Cymru reported at th weekend that D-BEIS are assessing a site on Anglesey for a multi-billion pound project. A lake at Trawsfynydd, central Wales, home to a Magnox plant closed in 1991, may be earmarked for a Rolls-Royce SMR.
The Prime Minister now sees nuclear as essential to the government achieving its 2050 net zero targets, as well as his levelling-up agenda,.
Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng is said to be keen too, amid concerns about rising energy prices and nuclear’s likely halving towards providing 8% of UK electricity by 2024. He now has the Prime Minister’s backing to boost nuclear.
At an energy crisis meeting on Friday morning Chancellor Rishi Sunak also made clear that he thought nuclear facilities should play a more prominent role in the UK’s future energy policy.
A source close to Sunak told the Times: “His general view is that we should have been doing this ten years ago, when it was cheaper, but we can’t rely on wind and solar power.”
It comes as a Whitehall source said that the current energy crisis had woken the government up to the dangers of not planning ahead.
Downing Street said: “It [nuclear] is very much on the agenda. We don’t really have any option. We need to get moving if we’re going to hit net zero and ensure energy security.”
Welsh Secretary Simon Hart is backing the proposed expansion. For projects over 350MW, approval is reserved to Westminster and can be pushed through without the Welsh Government’s consent.