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Rolls-Royce factory, Derby

6,000 jobs to be created in mini nuclear reactor manufacturing

Image credit: PA

A consortium led by Rolls-Royce has pledged to create 6,000 jobs all across the UK over the next five years, under plans to build a fleet of 16 small nuclear power stations.

The group said that the jobs would assist with the government’s 'levelling up' plan for the regions, with plans to make up to 80 per cent of components in factories in the Midlands and the North of England. These components would then be transferred to existing nuclear sites for assembly.

Last year, the government awarded the consortium £18m to design a small modular reactor (SMR), and the group matched the funding. It is hoping to secure a further £217m, which would also be matched by industry. The consortium – claimed to be the largest national engineering collaboration in UK history – is led by Rolls-Royce, the National Nuclear Laboratory, and Laing O’Rourke, and also includes Assystem, Atkins, BAM Nuttall, Jacobs, the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, and TWI.

According to Rolls-Royce, as well as creating 6,000 jobs by 2025, the consortium’s plans could create a further 34,000 high-value manufacturing roles over 15 years. Roles will be created in manufacturing, assembly, the supply chain supporting the programme, and in the energy sector.

The announcement comes just months after Rolls-Royce announced that it would cut 9,000 jobs due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the aviation industry.

The SMRs will be made from standardised, factory-made components using advanced manufacturing processes, allowing for rapid assembly on site. The SMRs will be operated by power-generation companies, and will each provide 440MW of power. It is hoped that the first unit will be operational within a decade.

“The UK SMR Consortium presents the UK with a domestic nuclear energy solution for the first time in a generation, with a product that is engineered, designed and manufactured in the UK,” said Tom Samson, interim CEO of the consortium. “This creates a unique opportunity to revitalise the UK’s industrial base and paves the way for the future commercialisation of advanced reactor solutions, including fusion technology.

“Our ambition to accelerate the development of a fleet of power stations across the UK will contribute massively to the 'levelling up' agenda, creating sustainable high-value manufacturing jobs in those areas most in need of economic activity,” he continued. “The fleet approach will bring huge value to the communities of which these power stations will be a part, with economic activity spanning 60 years of operations.”

Unite national officer Rhys McCarthy commented: “We have long called upon Rolls-Royce to diversify its production and services, so this opportunity must not be missed.” He also urged Rolls-Royce to take the opportunity to reverse its plans to move work at the Barnoldswick site in Lancashire to Singapore.

Meanwhile, The Financial Times has reported that a joint venture by Westinghouse, Southern Company, and Bechtel has registered interest in the Wylfa Newydd site in North Wales, following the withdrawal of Hitachi. The joint venture wrote to the business secretary Alok Sharma explaining that they were in a good position to “accelerate an AP1000 plant project at Wylfa as well as other sites across the UK”.

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