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Rolls-Royce looks to civil nuclear after MoD contract

Rolls-Royce is hoping to win new civil nuclear business using capabilities secured by a £1.1bn contract with the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

The company was this week awarded a deal to provide reactor cores for the Royal Navy’s final Astute-class submarine and the first of the next generation of vessels to carry Trident nuclear missiles — even though the government has yet to make an official final decision on the replacement of Britain’s nuclear weapons capabilities.

But the contract also included £500m for the third and final phase of the regeneration of Rolls-Royce’s nuclear manufacturing facility at Raynesway in Derby, securing 300 existing jobs over the duration of the 11-year programme.

‘We are actively pursuing opportunities in the UK new-build programme… This secures our ability to maintain those skills within Rolls-Royce,’ Debbie Hampton, Rolls-Royce spokesperson, told The Engineer.

‘We’re a world leader in the [nuclear] instrumentation and controls business as it is. What we’re trying to leverage, on what we have at Raynesway, is the manufacturing of the nuclear components that go in a reactor, which are exactly the same for a commercial nuclear power station, just on a grander scale.’

She added that the company could also draw its nuclear-certified supply chain from its submarine business into the civil nuclear market.

Rolls-Royce already has memoranda of understanding with Areva, Westinghouse and EDF, which are intending to build nuclear power stations in the UK but have yet to announce any contracts.

The company is nearing completion of the first two phases of the Raynesway regeneration, which include a new primary components operation (PCO) facility for the manufacture of nuclear reactor components and a new office suite.

The final part of the regeneration, covered by the MoD contract, will see the phased demolition of existing buildings and the building of a core production capability (CPC) facility to produce reactor core fuel.

‘The facility that’s currently there is in excess of 40 years old; it needs to be refreshed,’ said Hampton. ‘We need more efficient processes that we have developed now in order to deliver against the continuing cost-reduction demands of our customer.’

The government has approved sites for eight new nuclear power stations in the UK, but its official policy is that they must be built without subsidy. However, several companies have withdrawn their proposals to construct new plants citing costs and financing problems.

Readers' comments (6)

  • While I am delighted that R-R Derby will be getting some shiny new buildings, I have my doubts about their desire to adapt military reactor technology to the needs of the civil sector. There is some history to this type of technology transfer, although I suspect the Chernobyl Electric company came to regret choosing the RBMK design.

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  • I am baffled as to why the taxpayer is required to fund a Rolls Royce capital project like this.
    Why can't they raise the money themselves?

    Also, £500m works out at an enormous £1.7 million per job. Other projects could provide far more jobs for a similar sum. What about building some affordable houses at this time of great shortage?

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  • There has always been transfer between military and civil sectors, if you consider most are funded through companies such as BNFL and NNL. They won't be taking parts used on a sub and chucking it in to a reactor. It's more to do with RR having a proven history of being able to produce parts to the correct quality grades.

    And this kind of funding isn't atypical for large projects, the customer often pays for equipment and tooling. And while there probably are more efficient ways to create jobs (and we do need the housing). The jobs are really a nice bonus.

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  • I'm just happy that government funding is going to a British company and has secured British jobs. Its future technology advancements are made in the Civil sector from the MOD contract it will only benefit the country through future taxable orders

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  • Certainly this will have a spin-off in helping to maintian, possibly restore a bit of British nuclear capability which would not have happened otherwise.

    However, when considering the costs, remember that the 1.1bn is less than is wasted on overmanning in the public sector in what, a week? A day ? Probably the latter. At least this has an output, and in a magazine read hopefully by Engineers (though many comments would make one think otherwise), we should be applauding this.

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  • I have e-mailed the DECC suggesting that existing coal-fired power stations have their furnaces and boilers ripped out and replaced by your nuclear steam generating modules. Is this a practical proposition?

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