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Rolls-Royce looks to Oldbury for revival of West of England's nuclear ambitions

10 November 2022
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Oldbury power station
Oldbury power station

The Western Gateway Partnership's  bid to bring the UK’s fusion energy STEP programme to Severn Edge may have been unsuccessful, after the government announced last month that the UK’s first fusion plant will be built in Nottinghamshire, but Rolls-Royce SMR, which uses established nuclear technology to build low cost, scalable plants which it says can be rolled out across the world, has revealed in a new report that it has prioritised four Nuclear Decomissioning Authority (NDA) sites for 15 GW of new nuclear power, one of which is Oldbury on the banks of the River Severn in Gloucestershire.

The other three are at Trawsfynydd and Wylfa in North Wales and land neighbouring the Sellafield site in Cumbria. Berkeley in Gloucestershire is also likely to undergo further investigation by Rolls-Royce SMR to assess its potential.

Any formal commitment of NDA land, or other support, would require government approval via NDA’s sponsoring department, BEIS.

Katherine Bennett CBE, Chair of the Western Gateway Partnership, said: “Great to see both of our Severn Edge sites, Oldbury and Berkeley being considered as part of the Rolls-Royce Small Modular Reactor programme. Through our Fusion bid, we’ve been working to raise the profile of our area, leverage the great skills we have and create opportunities for local people in England and Wales and it’s testament to the success of that campaign that we are continuing to see new opportunities appear.

“The UK SMR programme is estimated to bring 40,000 jobs to England and Wales and it’s great to see Western Gateway being considered as part of that.  We are confident that both Oldbury and Berkeley can provide unique access to a highly skilled workforce, a supportive community and a chance to level up areas of England and Wales.

“This is part of the wider work the Western Gateway is doing to promote the area as a centre for low carbon energy to help drive national efforts to reach Net Zero. We look forward to continuing our work with partners to make sure we find the best possible options for these sites.”

Rolls-Royce SMR matched the sites against a set of assessment criteria that will enable stations to be operational by the early 2030s, including: existing geotechnical data, adequate grid connection and a site large enough to deploy multiple SMRs.

The study is another important step in deploying a fleet of small modular reactors (SMRs) that could help ensure the UK can reach net zero and bolster the country's energy security.

This is the first phase in a programme of work which is considering siting, collaboration opportunities and the socio-economic benefits of deploying Rolls-Royce SMR units on land within the NDA estate - with other locations across the UK also being evaluated.

Each Rolls-Royce SMR would create enough clean energy to power a million homes for 60 years. Deploying a fleet of SMR in the UK would create 40,000 jobs across England and Wales.

Tom Samson, Chief Executive Officer of Rolls-Royce SMR, said: “I am tremendously grateful to David Peattie and the NDA team for their work in helping inform our understanding of the significant opportunity to bring new nuclear power back to nuclear communities across England and Wales.

“Identifying the sites that can host our SMRs is a key step to our efficient deployment – the sooner that work can begin at site, the sooner we can deliver stable, secure supplies of low-carbon nuclear power from SMRs designed and built in the UK.”

“We must maintain this positive momentum and work with the NDA and Government departments, to ensure we capitalise on the range of siting options, focusing on those that maximise benefit to the taxpayer while enabling power to come online as close to 2030 as possible” added Tom.

David Peattie, Chief Executive Officer of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, said: “This study is a tangible step forward in our mission to safely decommission our sites and free up land for future use, delivering benefit to local communities and so to the wider economy.

“We’re engaging with several potential partners to explore the use of land in our estate whilst utilising the NDA’s nuclear sector expertise to support the delivery of the UK Government’s energy security strategy.”

Minister of State for Climate, Graham Stuart, said: “This work to identify potential sites for the first generation of small modular reactors is a positive step. These places not only have a strong historical connection with the industry, but also communities with the skills to benefit from the well-paid jobs that could be created.

“SMRs could make an important contribution to our ambition to deploy up to 24GW of nuclear capacity by 2050, lowering energy costs for consumers, and helping us meet net zero.”

The UK has a range of siting options for new nuclear infrastructure and the flexibility and smaller footprint of the Rolls-Royce SMR mean that maximum benefit can be derived for the taxpayer by building on sites that are owned by the NDA.


Nicky Godding is editor of The Business Magazine. Before her journalism career, she worked mainly in public relations moving into writing when she was invited to launch Retail Watch, a publication covering retail and real estate across Europe.

After some years of constant travelling, she tucked away her passport and concentrated on business writing, co-founding a successful regional business magazine. She has interviewed some of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs who have built multi-million-pound businesses and reported on many science and technology firsts.

She reports on the region’s thriving business economy from start-ups, family businesses and multi-million-pound corporations, to the professionals that support their growth and the institutions that educate the next generation of business leaders.

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