France’s new SMR initiative

4 February 2020

French nuclear industry players, CEA, EDF, Naval Group and TechnicAtome, are jointly developing a new SMR (small modular reactor) concept in the 300-400 MWe size range – consisting of two 170 MWe units – building on their extensive PWR expertise, including compact units for the navy.

Called NUWARD, it will benefit from “more than 50 years of experience in PWR design, development, construction and more than 2000 reactor years of PWR operating experience”, its developers say. NUWARD will be a “modular solution introducing some significant innovations”, with major operating and economic benefits deriving from compactness, simplicity of an integrated design, flexibility in terms of construction and operation, and an “innovative safety approach.” The plan is to have a commercial offering in the late 2020s.

The project will mobilise a French skill set including CEA’s research experience, systems integration and operation from EDF, structures and modularisation experience from Naval Group, as well as compact (eg, submarine) reactor design expertise from TechnicAtome.

Franc¸ois Jacq, Chairman of CEA stated: “CEA brings its skills and expertise for core and reactor design, development and validation of calculation tools, safety analysis studies and qualification of systems and components by providing its test facilities for R&D.”

EDF chairman and CEO Jean-Bernard Le´vy said his company was “committed to contributing its wealth of experience to make ‘NUWARD a success”, noting that that the project would “broaden the range of solutions for low carbon baseload energy offered by the French nuclear industry” and “address a new, high-potential market.”

“For more than 40 years, Naval Group has been building nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers whose propulsion energy is supplied by small nuclear energy production units”, observed Naval Group CEO Herve´ Guillou, while TechnicAtome CEO Loi¨c Rocard pointed out that over the past 50 years his company had designed, assembled and commissioned “more than 20 highly compact nuclear reactors.”

The partners say they are open to international co-operation, notably “to foster the harmonisation of regulation, the standardisation of design and design optimisation”, and “in that spirit, CEA and EDF have initiated discussions with Westinghouse Electric Company to explore potential co-operation on small modular reactor development” and have signed a framework agreement, identifying “worldwide demand for low carbon electricity generation in the 300-400 MWe range” as an important market segment that the parties strongly believe they can address.

Under the agreement – with a “detailed project roadmap” to be “confirmed in early 2020” – the three will examine the possibility of combining expertise from NUWARD with Westinghouse experience in passive safety technology, the only such technology currently in commercial use, and will pursue the regulatory and design standardisation that is “key for the implementation of a successful SMR design.”

Westinghouse is developing a 225 MWe SMR based on its AP1000 plant design, as well as solid state micro reactor (eVinci) and a "medium sized" lead-cooled reactor.

NUWARD visualisation

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