Rolls-Royce SMR design accepted for review

07 March 2022

The UK's Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), along with the environment regulators for England and Wales, have been requested by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to begin a Generic Design Assessment (GDA) for Rolls-Royce SMR Limited's small modular reactor design.

How the UK SMR will look (Image: Rolls-Royce)

In November, Rolls-Royce SMR Limited submitted a Notice of Intention to apply for GDA Entry to BEIS for its 470 MWe SMR design, which is based on a small pressurised water reactor.

BEIS has now carried out an initial screening process to confirm the company's capability and capacity to successfully enter the GDA process.

"This review concluded that the design is ready to enter the GDA process," the ONR said. "The assessment will begin once the necessary arrangements around timescales and resources have been put in place."

"Entering the GDA assessment process is another major milestone as we head at pace towards our goal of deploying a fleet of SMRs which will produce affordable, low carbon electricity – helping meet future energy demands and reach our net zero targets," said Rolls-Royce SMR CEO Tom Samson.

"The UK regulatory process is internationally recognised and respected. We welcome the scrutiny and challenge that goes into the assessment of our nuclear power plant design."

"Rolls-Royce SMR has a dedicated team with previous experience in GDA, licensing and permitting," added Helena Perry, Regulatory and Safety Affairs Director at Rolls-Royce SMR. "We have a collaborative relationship with the UK regulators and are using all our experience and learning to move at pace through the GDA process."

GDA is a process carried out by the ONR, the Environment Agency (EA) and Natural Resources Wales to assess the safety, security, and environmental protection aspects of a nuclear power plant design that is intended to be deployed in Great Britain. Successful completion of the GDA culminates in the issue of a Design Acceptance Confirmation (DAC) from the ONR and a Statement of Design Acceptability (SoDA) from the EA.

In May 2021, the UK's Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) opened the GDA process to advanced nuclear technologies, including SMRs.

A Rolls-Royce-led UK SMR consortium aims to build 16 SMRs. The consortium - which includes Assystem, Atkins, BAM Nuttall, Jacobs, Laing O'Rourke, National Nuclear Laboratory, the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre and TWI - aims to complete its first unit in the early 2030s and build up to 10 by 2035.

To minimise the construction phase of the programme, the UK SMR is fully modularised with the reactor, about 16 metres by 4 metres, able to be transported by road, rail or sea. Targeting a 500-day modular build, they say this concept minimises the onsite time and effort required to construct and build the plant, which Rolls-Royce said could fit on a site about the same size as five and half football pitches.

About 80% of the plant's components will be sourced from the UK. The target cost for each station is GBP1.8 billion (USD2.4 billion) by the time five have been built, with further savings possible. The aim is for the consortium to build 16 SMRs, which will each have about a third of the power output of a traditional nuclear power plant, before being handed over to be operated by power generation companies.

"This is a vital step forward for British nuclear technology," said a spokesperson from the Nuclear Industry Association. "The UK needs the Rolls-Royce SMR to strengthen our energy security and cut our dependence on gas as we move toward Net-Zero. The SMR can also play an essential role in enhancing British industrial capability, creating tens of thousands of jobs, revitalising the nuclear skills base and boosting the green economic recovery."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News