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Rolls-Royce SMR design moves to next stage of regulatory assessment

04 April 2023

Rolls-Royce SMR has progressed to Step 2 of the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) following the successful completion of the first step in the assessment by the UK’s independent nuclear regulators.

Image: Rolls-Royce SMR
Image: Rolls-Royce SMR

The GDA process allows the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), the Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to begin assessing the safety, security, safeguards and environmental aspects of Rolls-Royce SMR Ltd’s 470 MW Small Modular Reactor (SMR) design before site-specific proposals are brought forward.

Step 1 of the GDA began in April 2022 and this stage has now been successfully completed following preparatory work by Rolls-Royce SMR Ltd and the regulators. Step 2 is expected to last for 16 months.

Step 1 involved agreeing the scope of the GDA which has been based on information supplied by Rolls-Royce SMR Ltd to ONR, the Environment Agency and NRW so the regulators can undertake a meaningful assessment of the design.

During the past year, Rolls-Royce SMR Ltd has completed all the requirements for Step 1 from the regulators’ guidance with good progress made in developing its organisation and arrangements to support GDA, the regulators said.

Rolls-Royce SMR Ltd has now launched a comments process on its new website, which enables anyone to submit comments and questions about the reactor design to the company for its response.

Relevant issues raised during the comments process, and Rolls-Royce SMR Ltd’s responses to these issues, will be used to help inform the regulators’ assessments throughout the rest of the GDA process.

Step 2 is the fundamental assessment stage of the GDA where the detailed technical assessment by the regulators begins in earnest. The GDA process focuses on the design of a generic nuclear power station and is not site-specific. The process is systematic and contains a number of steps, with the assessment getting increasingly detailed as the process develops.

A Design Acceptance Confirmation (DAC) or Statement of Design Acceptability (SoDA), from ONR and the environmental regulators respectively, will only be issued at the end of Step 3 of the GDA if the design meets the high safety, security, safeguards, environmental protection and waste management standards expected by the regulatory frameworks.

These regulatory judgements do not guarantee the granting of a site licence or subsequent permissions issued under the conditions of a site licence for the construction of a power station based on the Rolls-Royce SMR design at a particular site in Great Britain.

Rolls-Royce SMR’s Safety & Regulatory Affairs Director, Helena Perry, said: “This is a huge stride forward for our project and, through the independent scrutiny of our regulators, further increases confidence in the viability of the Rolls-Royce SMR design.

“Rolls-Royce SMR has unmatched experience in GDA, international licensing and permitting. We are using all the knowledge and learning from our uniquely skilled team to move at pace through the GDA process – bringing us closer to our vision of providing clean, affordable energy for all and providing a British solution to a global energy crisis.”

Rob Exley, ONR’s Head of Generic Design Assessment, said: “We are working together with the Environment Agency and NRW to ensure Rolls-Royce SMR Ltd understands and meets our regulatory expectations for its proposed reactor design.

“As nuclear regulators, we recognise that we are acting in the interests of the public and, as such, this period of scrutiny will be open, transparent and provide regular opportunities for meaningful engagement with interested parties throughout the GDA process.

“ONR is satisfied that Rolls-Royce SMR Ltd has adequate arrangements to support GDA. We have agreed an appropriate scope for GDA, for which the company has provided an appropriate submission schedule and a resourced organisation to deliver it.”

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