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Two small modular reactor developers apply for UK approval

03 January 2023

GE Hitachi and Holtec Britain have submitted small modular reactor (SMR) designs to begin the UK’s generic design assessment (GDA) and gain approval from regulators. The GDA will enable the Office for Nuclear Regulation and Environment Agency to assess GE Hitachi’s BWRX-300 boiling water reactor and Holtec’s SMR-160 design.

Image: GE Hitachi
Image: GE Hitachi

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) announced on December 20 that it had submitted a GDA entry application while Holtec made an announcement on December 19 saying it was poised to enter the UK regulatory GDA process in early 2023, enabling start of construction of the first UK unit as early as 2028.

In its announcement, Sean Sexstone, Executive Vice President, Advanced Nuclear, GEH said: “We believe the BWRX-300 is the ideal technology to help the U.K. meet its decarbonization and energy security goals. Regulatory agencies in Canada and the US are collaborating on their licensing review of the BWRX-300. Through the GDA process we look forward to engaging UK regulators and enabling collaboration with their global counterparts.”

The GDA process allows UK regulators to assess the standards of safety, security and environmental protection of new nuclear power plant designs.

GEH said it believes that a fleet of BWRX-300 SMRs could play a substantial role in the UK meeting decarbonization and energy security goals. The design already has global interest with Ontario Power Generation (OPG) selecting it for potential deployment in Canada as early as 2028. SaskPower and Tennessee Valley Authority have also selected the BWRX-300 technology for potential deployment, while in Poland, ORLEN Synthos Green Energy (OSGE) started the pre-licensing process by submitting an application to the National Atomic Energy Agency for assessment of the design.

The day before GEH’s announcement, Holtec Britain said it was poised to enter the UK regulatory GDA process in early 2023 for its SMR-160 design. Holtec intends to deploy 32 SMR-160s (5.1 GW) in serial production by 2050.

Holtec, which has been a supplier of goods and services to the UK’s Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR) programme for over 25 years, has assembled a group of domestic British companies with complementary core competencies along with Team Holtec’s global alliance partners, Mitsubishi Electric and Hyundai Engineering and Construction Co. The company said the goal of this programme is to tender its “walk-away safe” SMR-160 technology to serve as the workhorse for suppling distributed base load power generation across the United Kingdom to meet the country’s expected burgeoning clean energy demand in the coming decades.

Image: Holtec International
Image: Holtec International

A completely gravity propelled reactor coolant system along with every other accident recovery system of entirely passive genre (i.e., no pumps or motors in any safety function and absence of any large piping in the reactor cooling system) are among the key characteristics of SMR-160 that, Holtec believes, will resonate with the British Government and ONR, the UK’s regulatory authority.

The SMR-160 is a PWR reactor technology based on existing regulations in the US and UK and uses PWR fuel similar to that already used at Sizewell B, and other new UK reactors under development including Hinkley Point C.

As a part of its project execution plan, Holtec Britain has concluded a joint Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Balfour Beatty and Korea’s Hyundai Engineering and Construction Co. (HDEC) to advance the planning for construction of SMR-160s in the UK.

The BWRX-300 and SMR-160 will be the second and third SMRs to enter the GDA process after Rolls-Royce SMR submitted its 470MWe design in 2021.

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