Rolls-Royce goes nuclear in the UK

UNITED KINGDOM - In July, the Rolls-Royce Group plc announced plans to establish a new business unit that would be associated with the emerging global market for civil nuclear power. The new unit would be completely separate from the company's existing energy units and nuclear propulsion activities.

The unit would be set up to provide a number of services to the civil nuclear program, including manufacturing, procurement, technical engineering support, safety assessments, and advice to governments and other operators. The company estimates that the worldwide civil nuclear market, thought to be about $45 billion per year at the moment, will be worth about $75 billion per year within the next 15 years.

Of this, about $30 billion will be spent on new build programs, about $25 billion on support for new reactors, and about $20 billion on support for existing nuclear plants.

Rolls-Royce will bring a wealth of expertise in the defense nuclear power sector to the civil nuclear power sector. The company already has a presence in both sectors and this new division will bridge the gap between the civil and military power industries.

Rolls-Royce, which has the largest nuclear-skills base among companies in the UK, also has the country's largest nuclear supply chain, consisting of about 260 proven suppliers.

The company has been involved in the nation's nuclear industry for over five decades and is very closely involved with the submarine program of the Royal Navy. In fact, its strength in the sector originates from activities related to the development and support of the nuclear steam-raising plant for the navy. The company's experience can be applied to every phase of a new build program planned anywhere in the world.

The company's subsidiary, Data Systems & Solutions LLC, supplies safety-critical instrumentation and control for civil nuclear reactors in Europe, China, the U.S. and various other markets.

In December, Rolls-Royce announced plans to join hands with construction major Balfour Beatty plc and French nuclear power plant and services provider Areva, to set up the next generation of the UK's nuclear power plants. The two UK firms will supply Areva with reactor parts, engineering and construction skills, while Areva will design a fleet of European Pressurized Reactors (EPRs). The purpose of the program is to replace Britain's ageing nuclear power plants.

Rolls-Royce and Areva have signed a memorandum of understanding, under which they will jointly work on developing a supply chain and manufacturing and engineering services. Balfour Beatty and Areva will identify the skills and resources required to implement the project and also put in place an effective supply chain. Site construction of the first reactor is likely to start in 2013, and the first reactor is expected to start operating by the end of 2017.

The 25-year program is expected to generate about 10,000 to 15,000 new jobs in the UK. According to Areva's chief executive, Luc Oursel, the program would lead to the addition of about 20,000 to 25,000 MW of new nuclear power generating capacity. That would be approximately equivalent to the capacity of 15 EPRs. Although the companies have not disclosed the costs involved, industry experts estimate that constructing and setting up each reactor is likely to cost about $7.8 billion.

Balfour Beatty has 50 years of experience working on nuclear projects, providing a range of services during this period, including engineering and construction capabilities, design and build, technical support frameworks, electrical and instrumentation control, and demolition and decommissioning services.

The company gathered extensive experience in the sector during involvement in the construction of nuclear stations at Hunterston, Sellafield, Sizewell, and Torness during the 1970s and 1980s. Balfour Beatty is still associated with the maintenance and expansion of these projects.


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