Rolls-Royce wins core contract for Royal Navy’s nuclear subs

Rolls-Royce has won a £1.1bn government contract to produce new reactor cores for the Royal Navy’s nuclear submarines.

The cores will be designed for the seventh and final Astute-class submarine and also the first of the Royal Navy’s next generation of nuclear deterrent submarines — even though the government says the final decision to replace the existing Vanguard subs has not been made.

The investment — which secures 300 jobs at Rolls-Royce — will also fund an 11-year refurbishment of Rolls-Royce’s plant at Raynesway in Derby, extending its operating lifetime by more than 40 years.

This part of the contract, worth around £500m, will see Rolls-Royce continue to maintain and operate its existing reactor core manufacturing plant while a parallel phased rebuild will replace facilities at the end of their useful life with a state-of-the-art reactor core production site.

‘This new facility will deploy advanced manufacturing techniques to enhance our world-leading nuclear manufacturing capability,’ said Jason Smith, Rolls-Royce president of submarines and chief operating officer — nuclear.

Defence secretary Philip Hammond said: ‘This contract will secure hundreds of highly skilled jobs for UK industry, while retaining our sovereign nuclear capability.

‘The Raynesway site has played a key part in the production and maintenance of our nuclear deterrent for more than 50 years. This regeneration will make sure it continues to do so for many years to come.’

The Astute-class vessels are the Royal Navy’s largest, most advanced and most powerful attack submarines and are nuclear powered but not nuclear armed. Seven have been ordered from BAE Systems and two have been delivered since 2007.

The government has approved the initial assessment phase for the construction of a new generation of submarines — known as the Successor class — to carry nuclear missiles.

This paves the way for like-for-like replacement of the existing Vanguard vessels, but opponents say a cheaper alternative could be found or that the UK should end its nuclear arms programme altogether.