GE Hitachi and Holtec submit SMR designs for UK assessment

20 December 2022

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) has submitted a Generic Design Assessment (GDA) entry application for its BWRX-300 small modular reactor (SMR) to the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). Meanwhile, Holtec International said it intends to soon submit an application for its SMR-160 design.

A rendering of a plant based on the BWRX-300 (Image: GEH)

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 from the ONR and a Statement of Design Acceptability from the EA. In May 2021, BEIS opened the GDA process to advanced nuclear technologies, including SMRs.

Rolls-Royce SMR was the first vendor to submit an application for a GDA of an SMR design. The 470 MWe pressurised water reactor design was accepted for review in March this year with BEIS asking the ONR and EA to begin the process.

GEH has now applied for its BWRX-300 design to undergo the GDA process. This is a 300 MWe water-cooled, natural circulation SMR with passive safety systems that leverages the design and licensing basis of GEH's ESBWR boiling water reactor. It is currently undergoing a Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) pre-licensing Vendor Design Review and a US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) pre-application design review.

"We believe the BWRX-300 is the ideal technology to help the UK meet its decarbonisation and energy security goals," said Sean Sexstone, Executive Vice President, Advanced Nuclear at GEH. "Regulatory agencies in Canada and the US are collaborating on their licensing review of the BWRX-300. Through the GDA process, we look forward to engaging UK regulators and enabling collaboration with their global counterparts."

GEH said it was supported in preparation of the GDA entry application by Jacobs UK Ltd, which has supported licensing applications for new nuclear power plant projects in the UK since 2007, drawing on its deep understanding of the GDA process and site-specific regulatory requirements.

To support the global deployment of the BWRX-300, GEH has Memoranda of Understanding or other agreements in place with companies in Canada, Czech Republic, Poland, the UK, the USA and Sweden, among others.

Holtec set to apply

Holtec has announced that it is "poised to enter the UK regulatory Generic Design Assessment process for SMR-160 in early 2023, enabling start of construction of the first UK unit as early as 2028". The company said it submitted an application to BEIS for funding support towards the regulatory design assessment last month.

How a plant based on the SMR-160 couild appear (Image: Holtec)

"Holtec Britain plans to file the application for the Generic Design Assessment of the SMR-160 plant for compliance with the UK's regulatory requirements, which the company knows to be a deeply safety-informed and technically rigorous process from its experience in licensing and deploying wet storage and dry storage & transport systems for used nuclear fuel going back to the mid-1990s," it said.

The SMR-160 is a pressurised light-water reactor, generating 160 MWe using low-enriched uranium fuel, with flexibility to produce process heat for industrial applications and hydrogen production. The design has completed the first phase of the CNSC's three-phase pre-licensing vendor design review and is undergoing pre-licensing activities with the NRC.

Holtec said "the design adaptation of SMR-160 for the UK is not expected to result in a materially different plant embodiment. Thus, the central tenet of SMR-160, which is to use one universally applicable design across the world will remain unchanged".

The company said it intends to deploy 32 SMR-160s in serial production by 2050 "to bring reliable and affordable electricity and heat to UK households, businesses, and industrial users".

It added that it has assembled a group of qualified domestic British companies with complementary core competencies along with Holtec's global alliance partners, Japan's Mitsubishi Electric and South Korea's Hyundai Engineering & Construction (HDCE).

"The goal of this programme is to tender our 'walk-away safe' SMR-160 technology to serve as the workhorse for suppling distributed base load power generation across the United Kingdom to meet the country's expected burgeoning clean energy demand in the coming decades," Holtec said.

Holtec also announced it has concluded a joint Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Balfour Beatty and HDEC to advance the planning for construction of SMR-160s in the UK. Under the agreement, the parties will develop the division of responsibilities for procurement, construction, and commissioning of SMR-160 plants in the UK in accordance with UK regulatory and industrial practices and with inclusion of UK suppliers.

Balfour Beatty will act as the main UK construction partner and collaborate with HDEC on the civil construction and installation of the mechanical, electrical and heating, ventilation and cooling systems as well as the equipment required for Holtec's SMR-160 reactors.

The parties will also jointly develop a cost estimate for deployment of the SMR-160 in the UK based on Holtec's standard design developed for the US Market, while waiting for the UK government to determine the process for site selection.

Holtec said it has identified three potential UK sites with existing nuclear power plants suitable for hosting the first wave of Holtec SMR-160s: Trawsfynydd in Wales, and Heysham and Oldbury in England.

"We are advancing project delivery plans with our UK team based on the information available for these sites and our corporate office committed to match funding the GDA with BEIS," said Holtec Britain Director Gareth Thomas. "Our GDA application provides incredible value for government's money considering that SMR-160's development has been essentially funded by Holtec for well over a decade and the requested governmental support is only for 'gap funding' to complete the GDA process."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News