Westinghouse proposes UK deployment of small modular reactor

21 October 2015

Westinghouse wants to work with the UK on the deployment of small modular reactor (SMR) technology. Westinghouse, part of the Toshiba group, said yesterday it had presented a "proposal to partner" in phase two of a study being carried out by the UK government into the nation's potential use of SMRs.

Phase one - an SMR feasibility study commissioned by the government and carried out by the UK's National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) - was published in December last year. There are SMR concepts for a range of applications including electricity production, district heating, desalination and plutonium management.

Westinghouse SMR cutaway 200
A cut-away of Westinghouse's SMR

Westinghouse said that its unsolicited proposal outlines a "shared design and development model" under which the company would contribute its SMR conceptual design and then partner with UK government and industry to complete, license and deploy it. It added that the collaboration would create "a new option for safe, clean-air energy that leverages the innovative technology" of Westinghouse's AP1000 nuclear power plant.


"We are proposing a strategy that would put the UK at the forefront of SMR development, advancing its standing in nuclear energy innovation and creating significant economic opportunities through leadership in the global market," said Jeff Benjamin, senior vice president, Westinghouse New Plants and Major Projects. "Our proposal is designed to fully engage UK industry and spur new manufacturing activity that would create numerous good jobs in the UK."

Westinghouse's SMR design is a 225 MWe integral pressurized water reactor with all primary components located inside the reactor vessel.

The partnership would be structured as a UK-based enterprise jointly owned by Westinghouse, the UK government and UK industry, Westinghouse said, adding that it is in talks with "a number of UK flagship companies" that support for the concept.

Westinghouse announced on 17 March that the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) it had approved Westinghouse's testing approach for its SMR design. The company said that the approval is a significant step toward design certification and will reduce the time ultimately needed to license its SMR.

The Westinghouse-designed Sizewell B plant, in Suffolk, England was built in 1988 and is currently the only pressurized water reactor and last nuclear reactor built to date in the UK. In addition, three Westinghouse AP1000 units are planned for the Moorside site in West Cumbria. When fully operational, the units will deliver about seven percent of the UK's future electricity needs.

The AP1000 plant design received a design certification amendment from the NRC in 2011. Eight AP1000 units are currently under construction at four sites in the USA and China.

UK interest growing

A UK parliamentary committee said after publication of the SMR feasibility study in December, that the technology could potentially have a key role to play in delivering low carbon energy at a lower upfront capital cost than large conventional nuclear reactors. The commercial viability of SMRs however remains unclear, it added. The study suggested that, in the short-term, deployment of SMRs is likely to be achieved through sharing the costs between the public and private sector. However, it says the government should help establish the right conditions for investment in SMRs, such as "through supporting the regulator to bring forward approvals in the UK, and by setting out a clear view on siting options".

The government later said that the second phase of work is intended to provide the technical, financial and economic evidence base required to support a policy decision on SMRs. If a future decision was to proceed with UK development and deployment of SMRs, then further work on the policy and commercial approach to delivering SMRs will need to be undertaken, which could lead to a technology selection process for Generic Design Assessment (GDA), the government said.

On 5 October NuScale said it aims to deploy its SMR technology in the UK with the first of its 50 MWe units in operation by the mid-2020s. The company is looking for partners to make this happen. US-based NuScale is developing its technology with a cost-sharing award from the US Department of Energy (DOE) worth $217 million over five years. Next year the company wants to apply for design certification and it hopes to have its first unit in operation in late 2023, generating power in Idaho for prospective customer the Utah Association of Municipal Power Systems. NuScale plans a construction and operating licence (COL) application late in 2017 or early 2018. The company also expects to apply for a GDA in the UK in a similar timeframe.

The NUScale Power Module is a 160 MWt, 50 MWe integral PWR with natural circulation.


The Prism and Enhanced Candu 6 (EC6) reactors are seen as "credible options" for managing the UK's plutonium stockpile, according to the UK's Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, but the government's preferred option for this remains reuse as mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel. In early 2012, the NDA invited expressions of interest on potential alternative credible full lifecycle management options for managing the UK's plutonium stockpiles. The use of plutonium in MOX fuel had earlier been selected as the preferred route by the government. Four responses were received and the NDA shortlisted two of them - GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy's Prism reactor and Candu Energy's EC6 reactor - for further consideration.

NNL has said that SMRs are proposed to have more flexible fuel cycle options, whether that is an "open" fuel cycle (direct disposal) or a "closed" fuel cycle (reprocessing and recycling). For example, a fast reactor SMR fleet could be envisaged as a dedicated reactor concept to manage plutonium stocks and minor actinide incineration. Light water reactor SMRs could equally be used for plutonium management, as proposed for the IRIS (International Reactor Innovative and Secure) design and with the potential of these designs to have a reduced or even avoid the need for an Emergency Planning Zone.

SMRs are defined as nuclear reactors generally 300 MWe equivalent or less, designed with modular technology using module factory fabrication, pursuing economies of series production and short construction times. This definition, from the World Nuclear Association, is closely based on those from the IAEA and the US Nuclear Energy Institute.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News