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SMR developers submit 6 designs for UK approval

Professional Engineering

How the Holtec SMR-160 small modular reactor could look
How the Holtec SMR-160 small modular reactor could look

Developers of six new small modular reactor (SMR) designs have applied for approval to deploy them as nuclear power plants in the UK.

The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is assessing submissions to enter the generic design assessment (GDA) process, reported the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC).

The designs come from established players and new entrants to the nuclear sector, the AMRC said. If they successfully enter the GDA process, they will be assessed for safety, security and environmental protection by the Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Environment Agency. The process is intended to support construction of a number of new power stations, by approving standard reactor designs that can be deployed in different locations.

GE Hitachi submitted an application for its BWRX-300 boiling water reactor in December, the AMRC reported. The BWRX-300 is a 300MWe water-cooled, natural circulation SMR, with passive safety systems adapted from the US-licensed ESBWR. GE Hitachi says it has been designed to achieve construction and operating costs which are substantially lower than traditional nuclear plants, and could be deployed as early as 2028.

The US-Japanese company’s submission was supported by Jacobs UK. GE Hitachi has also signed an initial agreement with Sheffield Forgemasters to discuss how the manufacturer could help meet the demands of deploying the BWRX-300 in the UK.

Holtec submitted its SMR-160 design, the AMRC said, a 160MWe pressurised water reactor developed in collaboration with Mitsubishi Electric of Japan and Hyundai Engineering and Construction of Korea. The US firm proposed to deploy 32 SMR-160s (5.1 GWe total) in serial production by 2050.

“The decisions made today will impact how future generations in the UK will live and work, and the vitality of the nation’s economy as a whole,” said Dr Richard Springman, senior vice-president of international projects for Holtec Britain. “I believe we will need multiple, complementary nuclear power plant designs based on proven PWR reactor technology already in the United Kingdom to assure carbon-free energy security 10 years from now – and we have to start now.”

Holtec Britain also announced a joint memorandum of understanding with Balfour Beatty and Korea’s Hyundai on construction planning for the UK, with potential sites identified at Trawsfynydd in Wales, and Heysham and Oldbury in England.

Applications from new companies include:

  • US firm X-Energy, which is working with Cavendish Nuclear to deploy its high-temperature gas reactor in the UK. The reactor is aimed at industrial decarbonisation as well as electricity generation. X-Energy said its first units will be deployed in the US from 2027, with the UK to follow.
  • UK-Italian start-up Newcleo, which is focused on lead-cooled fast reactors. The company is aiming to develop a 30MWe micro-reactor by 2030, followed by a 200MWe reactor fuelled by waste from existing nuclear plants.
  • UK Atomics, a subsidiary of Danish-based start-up Copenhagen Atomics, which is developing a containerised thorium molten salt reactor. The firm said it has already constructed a prototype reactor, and is aiming for first deployment in 2028.
  • GMET, a Cumbrian engineering group which last year acquired established nuclear supplier TSP Engineering, said it is developing a small reactor called NuCell for production at TSP’s Workington facility.

Rolls-Royce SMR is the only SMR developer to formally begin GDA. The firm submitted its 470MWe design in November 2021, with the regulators starting the first stage of assessment in April 2022.

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Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.


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