UK assessment of Rolls-Royce SMR design progresses

03 April 2023

Rolls-Royce SMR Limited's 470 MWe small modular reactor (SMR) design has successfully completed Step 1 of the UK's Generic Design Assessment (GDA) process and progressed to the next phase.

A cutaway of the Rolls-Royce SMR design (Image: ONR)

GDA is a three-step process carried out by the ONR, the Environment Agency (EA) and Natural Resources Wales (NRW) 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, the UK's Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) opened the GDA process to advanced nuclear technologies, including SMRs.

In November 2021, 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. The design was accepted for review in March 2022.

Step 1 of the GDA began in April 2022 and involved agreeing the scope of the GDA based on information supplied by Rolls-Royce SMR Ltd to the ONR, the Environment Agency and NRW.

"During Step 1 we have undertaken more than 200 engagements and assessed more than 40 submissions," the regulators said. "The information submitted met all the requirements from our guidance and demonstrated a good understanding of UK practice and regulatory expectations. We take confidence from these submissions that [Rolls-Royce SMR Ltd] has a clear view of what is needed to progress through the GDA and how it will justify its design".

The SMR design has now entered Step 2 of the GDA process, which is where the detailed technical assessment by the regulators is carried out. Step 2 is expected to last for 16 months.

"We have agreed a submission schedule with [Rolls-Royce SMR Ltd], which includes the submission of more than 500 documents during Step 2," the regulators said.

The overall duration for GDA is expected to be 53 months, completing in August 2026. Progression from Step 2 to 3 is subject to Rolls-Royce SMR Ltd securing additional funding during Step 2.

"A Design Acceptance Confirmation or Statement of Design Acceptability, from ONR and the environmental regulators respectively, will only be issued at the end of Step 3 of the GDA if the design meets the high safety, security, safeguards, environmental protection and waste management standards expected by our regulatory frameworks," ONR noted.

"This is a huge stride forward for our project and, through the independent scrutiny of our regulators, further increases confidence in the viability of the Rolls-Royce SMR design," said Rolls-Royce SMR Ltd's Safety and Regulatory Affairs Director, Helena Perry. "Rolls-Royce SMR has unmatched experience in GDA, international licensing and permitting. We are using all the knowledge and learning from our uniquely skilled team to move at pace through the GDA process - bringing us closer to our vision of providing clean, affordable energy for all and providing a British solution to a global energy crisis."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News