US-based Westinghouse Electric Company has signed an agreement with the UK’s Community Nuclear Power (CNP) to deploy the UK’s first privately-financed small modular reactor (SMR) fleet in Northeast England, using Westinghouse AP300 SMRs. “It is a significant step in making this new energy sector a reality with commercial operation expected by the early 2030s,” Westinghouse said.

The agreement is to build four AP300 SMRs in the North Teesside region. CNP, established in September 2022, is working with strategic partners, including Jacobs and Interpath Advisory, to develop a fully licensed site for the project, with a target of 2027. The project is being privately funded. CNP said the component parts and agreements needed for the project are in place, including land, capability, technology, private capital funding, and community demand.

“This is the first privately funded project deploying SMRs anywhere in Europe, and our goal is to be generating clean energy with in ten years' time,” CNP noted. "There is mature market-led demand in Teesside for clean, reliable energy – in this instance a programme to build a specialised site that provides green sustainable power for the region and supports the development of a Green Energy and Chemical Hub on the North Tees Group Estate, with the ambition of producing power to liquids (e-fuels and e-chemicals) through an offtake ecosystem on the north bank of the River Tees, near Stockton-on-Tees.”

CNP added that the North Tees Group Estate is reclaimed and regenerated industrial land, “and the provision of clean, always-on energy from at least four AP300s will help attract inward investment and high-value jobs”. The development will work in partnership with local business and the regional authorities.

Securing local agreements to utilise this power and heat will materially enhance the long-term prospects for the project, and create a baseload supply to drive future investment, protecting private off-take customers from fluctuations in the energy markets.

Westinghouse said the project is in accordance with the recently published UK Government Alternative Routes to Market for New Nuclear Projects consultation. It is also “complementary to and supportive of Westinghouse’s participation in Great British Nuclear’s (GBN) SMR technology selection process”. It will expand “workforce, training and supply chain localisation via multiple deployment projects”.

CNP CEO Paul Foster said the project “brings together Westinghouse’s proven technology and mature supply chain with our depth of expertise in nuclear programme delivery, in a region that is transforming its industrial landscape”. David Durham, Westinghouse President, Energy Systems said the AP300 SMR “is ideally suited not just to support grid generation, but also for industrial sites for generating clean and secure energy and the ability to produce hydrogen, e-fuels, desalination and district heating”.

The UK government has plans to expand nuclear energy capacity to 24 GWe by 2050, with a fleet of SMRs playing a key role. In 2023, the government and GBN began a selection process for suitable SMR technology. In October, EDF, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, Holtec, NuScale Power, Rolls Royce SMR and Westinghouse were invited to bid for UK government contracts.

Westinghouse Electric Company launched its AP300 SMR in May 2023 describing it as “the only SMR “truly based on an Nth-of-a-kind operating plant” and a “game-changer”. The 300 MWe single-loop pressurised water reactor is a scaled-down version of its AP1000. It will utilise identical AP1000 technology, to include major equipment, structural components, passive safety, proven fuel, and I&C systems. Westinghouse says the AP300 “will bring to bear a mature supply chain, constructability lessons learned, fast load-follow capabilities and proven O&M procedures and best practices from 18 reactor years of safe AP1000 operations.” Like the AP1000, the AP300 is designed to operate for an 80+ year life cycle.

Currently, the AP1000 is not licensed or operating anywhere in Europe. In the USA, two AP1000 reactors are under construction at the Vogtle NPP (units 3&4) in Georgia. Unit 3 entered commercial operation in April 2023 and unit 4 is nearing completion. However, both are significantly delayed and over budget. When construction began in 2009 they were expected to cost about $14bn and to enter service in 2016 and 2017. Cost has more than doubled. Two Westinghouse AP1000 units are in operation at each of China’s Sanmen and Haiyang NPPs after some delays, and two CAP1000 units - the Chinese version of the AP1000 - are being built as the second phase at each station.

Image: The nuclear power plant is expected to be in commercial operational by the early 2030s (courtesy of Westinghouse)

Date: Wednesday, 14 February 2024
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