Canadian, Polish, US companies in 'unprecedented' SMR collaboration

24 March 2023

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH), Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), Ontario Power Generation (OPG) and Synthos Green Energy (SGE) have agreed to work together to advance the global deployment of the GEH BWRX-300 small modular reactor (SMR) through collaboration on development of a standard design.

(L-R) Wileman, Lyash, Hartwick and Kasprów signed the agreement (Image: @TVANews)

The CEOs of the companies signed a technical collaboration agreement at an event in Washington DC, attended by representatives of the governments of all three countries. TVA, OPG and SGE will invest in the development of the BWRX-300 standard design and detailed design for key components, including reactor pressure vessel and internals. Each contributor has agreed to fund a portion of the overall cost of development of a standard design, which GEH anticipates will require a total investment of around USD400 million.

The collaborators will collectively form a Design Center Working Group with the purpose of ensuring the standard design is deployable in multiple jurisdictions, with a long-term goal for the BWRX-300 design to be licensed and deployed in Canada, the USA, Poland and beyond.

All three companies have already announced plans for GEH's SMR: OPG has begun site preparation at the Darlington New Nuclear Project site in Ontario for a BWRX-300 plant which will be the first grid-scale SMR in North America; TVA is preparing a construction permit application for a BWRX-300 at the Clinch River Site near Oak Ridge, Tennessee; and ORLEN Synthos Green Energy (OSGE), a joint venture between SGE and PKN Orlen, has started the pre-licensing process in Poland for the reactor as well as beginning a site selection process for its first unit.

"Getting this right is critical," GEH President and CEO Jay Wileman said. "We all know nuclear has to be part of the equation, if you want to achieve net-zero by 2050," but to "earn" its seat at that table "we've got to be on schedule, on budget, and it's got to be at competitive cost. That is one of the foremost purposes of our design-to-cost [approach], in our common design, where you design it once, and you build it multiple times."

Each of the companies will benefit from the "unprecedented" collaboration, which will further strengthen the cost competitiveness of the BWRX-300, he added.

"Working together, we are taking intentional steps to advance new nuclear in the US and around the world," TVA President and CEO Jeff Lyash said.

"Nuclear power will play a key role in meeting increasing clean electricity needs in Ontario and beyond, which is why OPG is constructing North America's first grid-scale SMR at the Darlington New Nuclear Project site," said OPG President and CEO Ken Hartwick. The collaboration agreement "will help advance necessary work to develop this next generation of nuclear power efficiently, benefiting electricity-users in all our jurisdictions."

"For the first time ever, a private Polish company is investing in a design for nuclear power plants," Rafał Kasprów, CEO of SGE, said, adding that GEH's modular technology is "simply ideal" for decarbonising energy and heat production in Poland, and also for the company's other zero-emission projects in the UK and throughout Central Europe.

Deploy, deploy, deploy

Addressing the event in Washington, US Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Kathryn Huff said the partnership was a model for "precisely the kind of first-mover visionary private investment-driven effort" needed to drive deployment at scale. "It takes a lot of dollars to make real change happen, and the federal government can't provide all of those dollars. Our one dollar needs to turn into trillions of dollars on the private side, and this group of individuals is doing just that," she said.

Earlier this week the US Department of Energy (DOE) published the first of its Commercial Liftoff reports, to support dialogue with the private sector on the pathways to "commercial lift-off" for a range of technologies including advanced nuclear.

"This partnership is precisely what will result in commercial lift-off for small modular reactors which DOE is really excited about as a technology," Huff said. The department partnered with GE on boiling water reactor technology "for decades" and is currently partnering with GEH on advanced construction technologies aiming to make nuclear construction faster and cheaper, including a technology called steel bricks - modular steel-concrete composite structures, much like high-tech LEGO pieces - she added. These may go on to be demonstrated at Clinch River

"These companies know how to deploy real technology," she said.

"You are part of the model that DOE would love to see - we love a public-private partnership but a private-private-private-private partnership is even better - so I encourage you all to congratulate them on joining us in what DOE is calling implementation season because it's time to deploy, deploy, deploy."

Listen: GE Hitachi Nuclear's Jay Wileman on his hopes for greater regulatory harmonisation in February's World Nuclear News podcast. Click below to listen (from 25 minutes in) or via podcast platforms.


Researched and written by World Nuclear News