AUKUS and SMR hopes prompt Rolls Royce expansion plans

Illustration of the proposed Raynesway extension, June 2023 (Rolls Royce)

Rolls-Royce Submarines in Derby are enlarging their Raynesway site, and have built facilities on an additional site, in anticipation of a substantial growth in their reactor production business from the AUKUS submarine programme and their proposed Small Modular Reactor (SMR) design. In June 2023, three months after the conclusion of the AUKUS scoping period, Rolls-Royce announced their intention to expand the Raynesway site to nearly double its current size. The company is also seeking to build a ‘nuclear centre of excellence and innovation’ in collaboration with other companies and academic institutions at a separate site, known as Infinity Park.

The Raynesway expansion plans involve several new buildings on the existing site, but also an expansion onto two additional pieces of land that have been acquired to the north east and north west of the current site. The former of these is alongside the road from which the Raynesway site takes its name, and the latter is on the other side of the Derby-Nottingham railway line. Design drawings show a new bridge over the railway linking the north west expansion to the main site.

An application for outline planning permission submitted to Derby City Council envisages more than 15 new buildings on the site, with a combined floor space of 104,430m3. This total does not include the proposed North East extension beyond the railway line. Six of these proposed new buildings would be used for manufacturing, with most of the remainder being office space. As of December 2023, the application is still under consideration.

A ‘Nuclear Skills Academy’ opened in Infinity Park in 2022. This training centre is a partnership between Rolls-Royce and the University of Derby, and is supported by Derby City Council and the National College for Nuclear. Its offer to the first intake of 200 students included apprenticeships in nuclear science and engineering, as well as mechanical engineering and welding courses. The academy intends to train 2000 apprentices over 10 years to address skills shortfalls in the sector.

The Infinity Park site is in the south of Derby, close to the largest Rolls-Royce site in the city, which is part of the company’s aerospace manufacturing arm, rather than being directly linked to the reactor manufacturing that takes place at Raynesway. A Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre was announced for the site in September 2022, and is said to have now “reached practical completion”. Infinity Park is a joint project between Rolls-Royce, Derby City Council, several developers and the Harpur Crewe Estate, which own the land.

Rolls-Royce’s approach to the project appears to involve seeking partners for collaborative projects it believes will support the nuclear industry in the UK broadly, as well as its own work. NIS understands that part of the appeal to Rolls-Royce of using a separate site for partnerships of this kind is that it does not require the same security measures as Raynesway, which handles the highly enriched uranium used in UK submarine reactors.

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