U.K. picks six to advance in SMR competition

October 4, 2023, 12:08PMNuclear News

The U.K. government has chosen six companies to participate in the next stage of its small modular reactor competition: EDF, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, Holtec Britain Limited, NuScale Power, Rolls-Royce SMR (the only real home team), and Westinghouse Electric Company UK Limited. According to the government’s October 2 announcement, the advanced technologies offered by these firms are “the most able to deliver operational SMRs by the mid-2030s.”

The competition was launched July 18 along with Great British Nuclear—an “arms-length” governmental body formed to help ramp up the nation’s nuclear capacity to as much as 24 GW by 2050—about three times the current U.K. reactor fleet’s output and representing up to 25 percent of Britain’s projected 2050 electricity demand.

GBN is managing the competition and will invite the six short-listed companies to bid for government contracts later this year. Successful firms are to be announced next spring and contracts will be awarded in the summer. “This timetable aims to make this competition the fastest of its kind in the world,” the announcement stated.

Official words: “Small modular reactors will help the U.K. rapidly expand nuclear power and deliver cheaper, cleaner, and more secure energy for British families and businesses; create well-paid, high-skilled jobs; and grow the economy,” asserted energy security secretary Claire Coutinho. “This competition has attracted designs from around the world and puts the U.K. at the front of the global race to develop this exciting, cutting-edge technology and cement our position as a world leader in nuclear innovation.”

Gwen Parry-Jones, GBN’s chief executive officer, said, “Our priority in this process has been to prioritize reliable and sustainable power to the grid early, and that’s why we have focused our first step on the technologies that we viewed as most likely to meet the objective of a final investment decision in 2029.”

As for company designs that failed to survive the competition’s initial round, Parry-Jones suggested that “the next opportunity could be the government’s consultation on alternative routes to market for nuclear technologies, which is expected to be launched soon. This will look at how to support newer technologies so that Britain can benefit from them as well.”

Fission designs: The down-selected technologies include EDF’s NUWARD, a 340-MWe European pressurized water reactor plant consisting of two 170-MWe units; GE Hitachi’s BWRX-300, a 300-MWe water-cooled, natural-circulation SMR with passive safety systems, adapted from the U.S.-licensed ESBWR; Holtec’s SMR-160, a 160-MWe PWR with passive safety systems; NuScale’s VOYGR plant, consisting of 4, 6, or 12 77-MWe NuScale Power Modules; Rolls-Royce SMR’s eponymous unit, a 470-MWe PWR that has advanced to the second stage of the U.K.’s generic design assessment—the only entry to date to reach that stage; and Westinghouse’s AP300, a 300-MWe single-loop PWR based on the company’s larger AP1000 unit.

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