Rolls-Royce submits SMR design for UK assessment

17 November 2021

Rolls-Royce SMR Limited has submitted its 470 MWe small modular reactor (SMR) design for entry to the UK's Generic Design Assessment (GDA) regulatory process. The review of the SMR design - based on a small pressurised water reactor - will formally begin once the government has assessed the company's capability and capacity to successfully enter the GDA process.

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

GDA is a process carried out by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and the Environment Agency (EA) 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, the UK's Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) opened the GDA process to advanced nuclear technologies, including SMRs.

Rolls-Royce SMR said it has submitted a Notice of Intention to apply for GDA Entry to BEIS, which will now carry out an initial screening process to confirm the business is suitability qualified to enter the GDA process. It noted this government evaluation process is expected to take up to four months before the regulators can begin their formal review process.

"This is an important moment for the nuclear industry, as a UK SMR reactor design enters the initial process for regulatory approval for the first time," said Helena Perry, director of regulatory and safety affairs at Rolls-Royce SMR. "We have already made 270 design decisions during our pre-licensing engagement and are confident of working with the experienced regulatory teams to deliver an efficient GDA process.

"We will have around 300 people working full time on these important regulatory processes. Both the industry and regulators have learnt a great deal from previous GDA processes, and we will integrate those lessons into the collaborative approach we will take with the UK regulators."

Rolls-Royce Group announced earlier this month the establishment of Rolls-Royce SMR Limited for the deployment and commercialisation of its SMR technology. The announcement followed the securing of GBP210 million (USD285 million) in funding from the UK government, matched by more than GBP250 million of private investment.

Rolls-Royce Group, BNF Resources UK Limited and Exelon Generation Limited will invest GBP195 million over about three years in the new business. This funding will enable the business to secure grant funding of GBP210 million from UK Research and Innovation. Rolls-Royce Group will own approximately 80% of Rolls-Royce SMR on the completion of this equity raise.

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 to enable the plant 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. 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 power stations will be built by the consortium, before being handed over to be operated by power generation companies.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News