Rolls-Royce is in talks with Ukraine to build mini-nukes

Rolls-Royce has begun talks with Ukraine’s largest private power company about building a series of mini-nuclear power plants.

DTEK, a part of Rinat Akhmetov’s industrial group and a billionaire businessman, has had early discussions with Rolls regarding developing Small Modular Reactors at sites that are currently operated by coal-fired power stations.

Maxim Timchenko said that he expected nuclear power to be an important part in the future of DTEK as Ukraine rebuilds and moves away from fossil fuels.

DTEK and Rolls have been examining the possibility of converting up to eight coal power stations, including two that are currently located in Russian territory, into SMRs by 2030.

The announcement comes at a time when Ukraine is scrambling for less centralised, renewable energy sources, like wind and solar farms. This is in response to a Russian targeted bombing campaign to destroy grid infrastructure over the harsh winter months.

DTEK started generating electricity in May from the Tyligulska Wind Farm, 60 miles away from the frontline in the south of Ukraine. The wind farm was built during the war in only nine months. This month, it announced plans for quadrupling the site’s power.

Mr Timchenko stated that renewables were key to improving energy security, as wind turbines are much more difficult missile targets than coal power plants. He said that a significant amount of energy will need to be generated from sources less intermittent, such as nuclear.

In an interview with The Telegraph, he said: “We’re trying to figure out a way to put these SMRs in place.

We have a large number of coal-fired stations, and are currently in talks with Rolls-Royce SMR about converting them.

Ukraine was already a major user of nuclear energy. The state owned four plants which generated more than half the power in the country before Vladimir Putin sent the Russian military into the country.

The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant is now in occupied territory, and it has become a flashpoint. Ukraine and Russia accuse each other of reckless bombing, which could lead to a nuclear catastrophe.

The SMR being developed by Rolls is a new and commercially-unproven technology that the company does not expect to deploy until 2030 at the earliest, with the first expected to be built in the UK.

DTEK wants to form a partnership between Rolls and DTEK that would allow for some of the supply chains to be set up in Ukraine where there are significant nuclear engineering experts.

Rolls-Royce SMR confirmed that the two companies are in discussions, adding: “The specifics of these conversations are commercially confidential.”

DTEK has also been reported to have had discussions with other companies that develop SMRs.

Since the outbreak of conflict in February 2022, Russian forces have been heavily attacking its infrastructure. The company supplies one fifth (mostly coal) of Ukraine’s energy.

Rolls has been in contact with bidders who were told the next phase of the UK competition for funding SMR designs would be pushed back.

Six companies, including Rolls , are competing to build SMR projects that will be funded by the government. The companies were hoping to submit an official tender this month, but now have been informed that the process will begin in January.

One bidder believes that the “Rwanda war” has slowed down important industry matters.

Insiders who are overseeing the bids say that the winners will still be announced during the second half next year.

Great British Nuclear’s spokesman said: “The competition will move to the next phase as soon as we can and we are looking forward to receiving vendor offers.”

Rolls-Royce’s chief executive Tufan Erginbilgic met with Czech Ministers last week to begin negotiations for a SMR deal as the company struggles to get firm orders.