The UK's Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), along with the environment regulators for England and Wales, have been asked by the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero to begin a Generic Design Assessment for Holtec International's SMR-300 small modular reactor design.

Holtec's image of a two-unit SMR-300 plant (Image: Holtec)

Generic Design Assessment (GDA) is a process carried out by the ONR, the Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales 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 Environment Agency.

In May 2021, the UK's Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy opened the GDA process to advanced nuclear technologies, including SMRs.

Following its readiness review of Holtec's application, the department concluded that the design was ready to enter the GDA process.

"The GDA assessment will look to actively explore opportunities to maximise the value of international regulatory collaboration and identify efficiencies in processes," ONR said.

Holtec has been developing its small modular reactor (SMR) unit since 2011. The SMR-300 is a pressurised water reactor producing around 300 MW of electrical power or 1050 MW of thermal power for process applications, and the company says it has undergone several design evolutions, the most recent of which is the incorporation of forced flow capability overlayed on gravity-driven flow in the plant’s primary system.

Holtec noted the UK government has awarded its UK subsidiary, Holtec Britain, GBP30 million (USD37.7 million) of grant funding from the Future Nuclear Enabling Fund for Holtec to complete Steps 1 and 2 of the GDA.

"The application exceeded the quality thresholds across all four assessment criteria and successfully completed the department's due diligence and governance approvals processes," the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero said.

"Holtec looks forward to putting our advanced pressurised water reactor, designed with inherent safety, through the scrutiny of the UK regulators ... while continuing our ongoing pre-application dialogue with the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and other regulators in parallel," the company said.

UK Minister for Nuclear Andrew Bowie said: "As the government that revitalised the UK nuclear industry, committing public funds to nuclear for the first time in a generation, we're rapidly expanding our nuclear power capacity to move towards a cleaner energy mix and help deliver net-zero. Today's news represents a multi-million investment to develop cutting-edge technology which could transform how power stations are built by making construction faster and cheaper."

Holtec is participating in the Great British Nuclear SMR competition, where the UK government's ambition is to announce in 2024, which companies the government will support for technology deployment.

Holtec said it is planning a large expansion in the region should Holtec be successful in the Great British Nuclear competition, "locating a factory to build the major mechanical SMR components and other aligned areas of business (clean energy and defence) to support deployment of 5 GW+ of on-grid UK electricity by 2050".

Researched and written by World Nuclear News

Date: Friday, 08 December 2023
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