Tufan Erginbilgic, CEO of Rolls-Royce, has said that Europe cannot reach its target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 unless it embraces nuclear power.
Erginbilgic made the comments at the Paris Air Show, where he was promoting Rolls-Royce’s new small modular reactors (SMRs). SMRs are smaller and cheaper than traditional nuclear power plants, and Erginbilgic believes they could play a pivotal role in decarbonising Europe’s electricity grids.
“I’m not sure, without nuclear, Europe can go to a net zero world,” said Erginbilgic . “SMRs, frankly, relative to the traditional nuclear power plant, has lots of advantages because it is much smaller. And therefore the risk profile is much smaller.”
Erginbilgic’s comments come at a time when there is growing debate within the European Union about the role of nuclear power in the bloc’s climate goals. Some countries, such as Germany and Denmark, have a more circumspect approach to nuclear and want to focus on renewable energy sources like wind and solar. Others, including France, who is heavy reliant on nuclear, are keen to push ahead with the development of new reactors.
Rolls-Royce is hoping to position itself as a leader in the SMR market. The company is already working with the UK government on a plan to build a fleet of SMRs in the UK. In March, the chancellors Spring Budget allocated £385 million to the Advanced Nuclear Fund, supporting the development of next-generation nuclear technologies, including SMRs.
If the government gives the green light, Rolls-Royce could start construction on the first SMRs as early as 2025.
The UK manufacturer is leading a coalition of engineering, manufacturing, and construction partners to make SMR’s a reality. They plan to build 16 stations that will provide 20% of the UK’s grid energy by 2050.
The company’s plans have been welcomed by some environmental groups, who believe that SMRs could be a key part of the solution to the climate crisis. However, other groups have raised concerns about the safety of nuclear power and the potential for accidents.
The government’s decision on whether or not to support Rolls-Royce’s SMRs will be a significant test of its commitment to net zero carbon emissions. If the government gives the green light, it could pave the way for a major expansion of nuclear power in Europe.
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