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 However, several companies have withdrawn their proposals to construct new plants citing costs and financing problems.