We are pleased to announce that Holtec Britain is poised to enter the UK regulatory Generic Design Assessment (GDA) process for SMR-160 in early 2023, enabling start of construction of the first UK unit as early as 2028. Holtec intends to deploy 32 SMR-160s (5.1 GW) in serial production by 2050 to bring reliable and affordable electricity and heat to UK households, businesses, and industrial users.
Holtec, which has been a prominent supplier of goods and services to UK’s Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR) program for over 25 years, has assembled a group of qualified domestic British companies with complementary core competencies along with Team Holtec’s global alliance partners, Mitsubishi Electric (Kobe, Japan) and Hyundai Engineering and Construction Co. (Seoul, Korea). The goal of this program is to tender our “walk-away safe” SMR-160 technology to serve as the workhorse for suppling distributed base load power generation across the United Kingdom to meet the country’s expected burgeoning clean energy demand in the coming decades. Holtec Britain looks forward to putting up its SMR-160 reactor, in development since 2011, to the scrutiny of the UK regulator, Office Nuclear Regulation (ONR), with the expectation for speedy approval underpinned by its uniquely robust safety features. A completely gravity propelled reactor coolant system along with every other accident recovery system of entirely passive genre (i.e., no pumps or motors in any safety function and absence of any large piping in the reactor cooling system) are among the key characteristics of SMR-160 that, Holtec believes, will resonate with the British Government and ONR, the UK’s regulatory authority. Towards this end, Holtec Britain plans to file the application for the Generic Design Assessment of the SMR-160 plant for compliance with UK’s regulatory requirements, which the company knows to be a deeply safety-informed and technically rigorous process from its experience in licensing and deploying wet storage and dry storage & transport systems for used nuclear fuel going back to the mid-1990s.
Holtec International believes that the UK government’s decision to build the nation’s clean energy generation infrastructure around the PWR technology is a prudent policy. Our small modular reactor would use the same fuel as other PWRs in the country which will enable the UK to standardize fuel fabrication and other critical segments of the nuclear supply cycle. Just as the nuclear navy’s PWR expertise has played a vital role in the sustenance of the nuclear industry in America and France, so will it in Great Britain as well. The PWR technology is favoured by most countries in the world not only because it provides a synergy between the country’s commercial clean energy and its defence needs; it is also inherently a more environmentally friendly technology because only a small portion of the plant is contaminated requiring disposal of radiological matter at the time of the plant’s decommissioning.
Senior Vice President of International Projects responsible for Holtec Britain, Dr. Richard M. Springman considers the United Kingdom to be at an inflection point “as it navigates its transition to clean energy with nuclear energy serving as a critical component. The decisions made today will impact how future generations in the UK will live and work, and the vitality of the nation’s economy as a whole. I believe will need multiple, complementary nuclear power plant designs based on proven PWR reactor technology already in the United Kingdom to assure carbon-free energy security ten years from now; and we have to start now.” Holtec has submitted the application to the UK Government’s Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) for funding support towards the regulatory design assessment last month.
It should be noted that SMR-160 is a PWR reactor technology based on existing regulations in the US and UK and uses PWR fuel similar to that already used at Sizewell B, and other new UK reactors under development including Hinkley Point C. This is reported to enable economic viability of the front-end and back-end of the fuel cycle, supporting UK energy independence. “If you stand back and look at economic viability of the fuel cycle in UK ten years from now, it is clear that there needs to be some standardization around PWR fuel types given these are the plants already in operation and construction today; we need common facilities and equipment for production, storage, and final disposal of fuel to be economically viable – we view our SMR-160 as meeting this objective,” says Springman.
As a part of its project execution plan, Holtec Britain has concluded a joint Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Balfour Beatty and Korea’s Hyundai Engineering and Construction Co. (HDEC) to advance the planning for construction of SMR-160s in the UK. Under the Agreement, the parties will develop the division of responsibilities for procurement, construction, and commissioning of SMR-160 plants in the UK in accordance with UK regulatory and industrial practices and with inclusion of UK suppliers. The Parties will also jointly develop a cost estimate for deployment of the SMR-160 in the UK based on Holtec’s standard design developed for the US Market, while waiting for the UK Government to determine the process for site selection. Holtec has identified three potential UK sites with existing nuclear power stations suitable for hosting the first wave of Holtec SMR-160s, at Trawsfynydd in Wales and Heysham and Oldbury in England. Director of Holtec Britain, Mr. Gareth Thomas, stated: “We are advancing project delivery plans with our UK Team based on the information available for these sites and our corporate office committed to match funding the GDA with BEIS. Our GDA application provides incredible value for government’s money considering that SMR-160’s development has been essentially funded by Holtec for well over a decade and the requested governmental support is only for “gap funding” to complete the GDA process.”
Indeed, in respect of its power output, our SMR-160 is a land-based version of nuclear reactors that power aircraft carriers. But it takes advantage of the depth and height available for on- land deployment to make the plant which we term unconditionally safe because of the temperature control of its circulation systems is guaranteed by none other than mother earth’s gravity.
To be sure, the design adaptation of SMR-160 for UK is not expected to result in a materially different plant embodiment. Thus, the central tenet of SMR-160 which is to use one universally applicable design across the world will remain unchanged.