UK backs Rolls-Royce mini nuclear plants

The UK is trying to fast-track new atomic power.

Engine maker Rolls-Royce has won government funding to develop new mini nuclear power plants.

The British government will invest 210 million pounds in the project, or about $283 million.

Rolls-Royce and two partners will put in a similar sum.

Visiting a company factory Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said it was a big deal for jobs, energy and the environment:

"I think this represents a fantastic opportunity for people in the UK but particularly people in the region. Small modular reactors, very much cutting edge technology, they give us baseload, they give us the ability to have secure energy supply, and also critically it means something like 40,000 well-paid jobs in this area."

The UK wants new nuclear plants to help cut its carbon emissions.

But large new power stations can cost billions, and take decades to complete.

Rolls-Royce aims to produce the mini N-plants in series and at lower cost.

Each one could power around 1 million homes.

Company boss Warren East says the project will bring early benefits:

"You know, this isn't something which is a project that is starting in a decade's time and we're talking about net zero in 2050 and we're going to get there in 2050. This is something which is going to make an impact within the next 10 years."

Rolls-Royce is best known for its jet engines, which power many of the world's airliners.

But it also makes nuclear power plants for UK submarines, giving it huge expertise in atomic energy.

It hopes to have the first of its new nuclear plants in operation early next decade.

The company sees a need for 16 such facilities in the UK, with significant export potential too.

Greenpeace criticised the plan though.

It says there are still safety issues with the technology and nuclear waste.

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