Rolls-Royce steams into nuclear market

Rolls-Royce plans to become a major player in a future global nuclear industry worth $100 billion, using what it claims is the UK’s most substantial nuclear supply chain.

The company said the worldwide nuclear power market would be worth $100 billion in 15 years time, up from $60 billion now. This will break down into $40 billion in new build, $34 billion in support for new reactors and $26 billion in support for units existing today, a company statement said.

This “exciting opportunity” has prompted the company to announce today that it is setting up a new business unit as a “single focus” for its civil nuclear work, separate from its existing nuclear propulsion activity and other energy units.

The company has developed two pressurized water reactor models with five design variations for UK submarines, which it maintains at two licensed nuclear sites. RR’s other energy-related activities include developing gas turbines, heat exchangers and fuel cells as well as energy delivery and storage systems for off- and on-shore applications. In aerospace, Rolls-Royce is a leading supplier of jet engines.

A significant nuclear link for RR is Data Systems & Solutions (DS&S), a company it established to specialise in safety-critical instrumentation and control (I&C). RR said that DS&S equipment is used in all of France’s 58 power reactors and about half of the USA’s 104-strong fleet. DS&S is currently upgrading I&C systems at all French reactors as part of a 25-year agreement with Electricité de France, while reactor protection I&C upgrades are also in progress at Dukovany in the Czech Republic and Ling Dong in China.

About 1800 people already work in RR’s nuclear businesses at three sites in Britain as well as one in France and one in the USA. Two key sites are in Derby, one of which can produce reactor components, while the other can make pressure vessels for smaller submarine reactors or pressurizers for full-size nuclear power units. RR said it enjoys the UK’s “most substantial” nuclear supply chain, totalling 260 companies. RR chief executive Sir John Rose said that Rolls-Royce’s experience would be “directly applicable to all phases of the new build programs that are planned in the UK and globally.”

Rose wrote in an editorial for the Daily Telegraph that “because the UK will be among the earliest countries to invest in the next generation of nuclear power, we should be able to build up expertise and experience. This experience can then be deployed in support of overseas projects in much the same way as the UK successfully used it experience in the North Sea to develop an export-oriented offshore oil and gas industry.”

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