Holtec SMR to use commercially-available Framatome fuel

29 April 2020

Holtec International has selected Framatome to supply nuclear fuel for its SMR-160 small modular reactor (SMR). The companies have entered into an agreement to enable completion of all necessary engineering to fuel the SMR-160 with Framatome's commercially available and proven 17x17 GAIA fuel assembly.

A plant based on the SMR-160 reactor design (Image: Holtec International)

Framatome initially developed the GAIA fuel assembly to ensure "optimal performance and high safety margins for increasingly demanding conditions", including increases in burn-up, lower neutron leakage, cycle lengths of up to 24 months, and challenging water chemistry conditions. Holtec said the GAIA fuel assembly design has been determined to be ideally suited for its SMR reactor.

The selection of Framatome's widely consumed fuel has substantially reduced the majority of the first-of-a-kind-engineering for the fuel system, Holtec said.

"By adapting the SMR-160 to utilise standard pressurised water reactor fuel in its core design, Holtec has substantially eliminated risks associated with nuclear fuel, ensuring fuel-related operational experience from the current light water reactor fleet operating world-wide is relevant to our reactor," it said. "Critically, the inclusion of Framatome in our SMR-160 programme ensures that a prospective SMR-160 plant owner will have ready access to a robust international fuel supply chain."

"We're excited to offer our proven products and fuel expertise to Holtec in support of their effort to develop and license the SMR-160 with maximum speed," said Gary Mignogna, president and CEO of Framatome in North America.

Holtec CEO Kris Singh added, "We look forward to leveraging Framatome's vast reservoir of nuclear fuel know-how accumulated over the past five decades to expeditiously deploy the SMR-160 reactor with truly minimised risk."

Holtec's 160 MWe factory-built SMR uses low-enriched uranium fuel. The reactor's core and all nuclear steam supply system components would be located underground, and the design incorporates a wealth of features including a passive cooling system that would be able to operate indefinitely after shutdown. No active components, such as pumps, are needed to run the reactor, which does not need any on-site or off-site power to shut down and to dissipate decay heat. The SMR-160 is planned for operation by 2026.

In March 2018, Holtec signed a memorandum of understanding with Energoatom on adoption of Holtec's SMR technology with Ukraine to become a manufacturing hub for SMR-160 reactor components. The MoU includes the licensing and construction of SMR-160 reactors in Ukraine, as well as the partial localisation of SMR-160 components. The Ukrainian manufacturing hub is to mirror the capabilities of Holtec's Advanced Manufacturing Plant in Camden, New Jersey, and will be one of four manufacturing plants Holtec plans to build at distributed sites around the world by the mid-2020s.

The SMR-160 is currently undergoing the first phase of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission's three-phase pre-licensing vendor design review process. State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine is expected to coordinate its assessment of SMR-160 under a collaborative arrangement with its Canadian counterpart.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News