Companies join forces to bring VVER to UK

05 September 2013

Rosatom, Fortum and Rolls-Royce have agreed to work together to investigate building Russian-designed VVER pressurized water reactors in the UK. A memorandum of understanding signed by the UK and Russia will underpin the work.

 Fallon and Kiriyenko (Rosatom)_280
Michael Fallon and Sergei Kiriyenko sign the memorandum (Image: Rosatom)

According to Fortum, the trio of companies are to begin preparatory work towards a Generic Design Assessment (GDA) of a VVER-type power plant and site licensing. First commercial contracts have been signed by the parties.

The agreement is supported by a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in the nuclear power industry signed in Moscow by UK energy minister Michael Fallon and Rosatom head Sergei Kiriyenko. At the same time, Rolls-Royce signed a contract with Rosatom which will see the UK company undertake engineering and safety assessment work on Rosatom's VVER technology ahead of its potential entry in the GDA process.

The GDA forms part of the approval process for new reactor projects in the UK, and allows regulators to assess the safety, security and environmental implications of new reactor designs, separately from applications to build them at specific sites. The UK's first GDA process began in 2007, when four designs were submitted for initial consideration by UK regulators. Areva's EPR became the first reactor design to complete the GDA process and receive a Design Acceptance Confirmation and Statement of Design Acceptability in December 2012. Earlier this year, a GDA was begun for Hitachi-GE's Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR).

The companies bring together various experiences and expertise. Rosatom's VVER reactors currently operate in 11 countries. Finnish nuclear utility Fortum brings to the table its experience of construction, operation and maintenance of VVERs at the Loviisa plant, which has operated for over 30 years, while Rolls-Royce contributes expertise as a provider of technology and services to the nuclear industry as well as knowledge of the UK licensing regime and its network of suppliers as a leading engineering company. Rosatom has been working closely with Rolls-Royce since the two companies signed a memorandum of understanding in 2011.

Rosatom has long expressed an interest in the potential new build market offered by the UK, where eight sites have been approved as suitable for new build. EDF has already earmarked two of them - Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C - as potential sites for EPRs, while ABWRs are proposed for Horizon's sites at Oldbury and Wylfa.

Fortum executive vice president Matti Ruotsala said that the UK provided a "really interesting opportunity." although the company emphasised that it has not yet made any investment decisions related to UK new build.

Fallon said that he welcomed the agreements signed by the three companies, adding that all reactor technologies adopted in the UK must meet the "stringent and independent" regulatory standards required in the UK and the EU.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News