I have to conclude that the Deputy Prime Minister of New South Wales, John Barilaro, is a remarkable clairvoyant. He has announced unequivocally on Australian media that Rolls Royce is set to build up to 15 new small-size nuclear reactors in Britain over the next nine years.
Strange this. Just 18 months ago, according to the Financial Times, Rolls-Royce was preparing to shut down altogether its R&D project to develop small modular nuclear reactors, unless the British government agreed to an outrageous set of demands and subsidies.
Granted the Johnson government has bunged them a few million to keep the R&D going. But there is as yet no sign of anything being oven-ready to come to the marketplace, let alone 15 up and running.
But there remain some rather disturbing connections between small reactor projects and nuclear weapons proliferation. And Rolls-Royce does offer up one of the most glaring examples.
Part of the company’s current sales pitch to the British government includes the argument that a civil small-reactor industry in the UK “would relieve the Ministry of Defence of the burden of developing and retaining skills and capability” for its weapons programme. It may be true. But it is not really Atoms for Peace, is it?