A group of French companies on 17 September, during the International Atomic Energy Agency General Conference in Vienna, announced a joint project, Nuward, aimed at the development of a small modular reactor (SMR) to meet the growing world demand for decarbonised, safe and competitive electricity generation.
The 300-400MWe pressurised water reactor (PWR) should be ready by the late 2020s. French utility EDF and the Atomic & Alternative Energies Commission (CEA), Naval Group and TechnicAtome (formerly Areva TA) said the Nuward project would will benefit from best in class French technologies based on more than 50 years of experience in PWR design, development, construction and more than 2000 reactor years of PWR operating experience.
CEA Chairman François Jacq said CEA would contribute its 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 actions.
EDF’s Chairman and CEO Jean-Bernard Lévy said EDF was committed to contributing its wealth of experience to make Nuward a success.
Naval Group’s CEO Hervé Guillou said: “For more than 40 years, Naval Group has been building nuclear submarine and aircraft carriers whose propulsion energy is supplied by small nuclear energy production units.” He added that cooperation “offers interesting synergies with our nuclear propulsion core skills."
Technicatome has also been designing, assembling and commissioning more than 20 highly compact nuclear reactors, for almost 50 years, its
CEO Loïc Rocard noted.
EDF and CEA said in a joint statement that they were open to international cooperation and “in that spirit, CEA and EDF have initiated discussions with Westinghouse Electric Company to explore potential cooperation on small modular reactor development”. Westinghouse said the three companies had signed a framework agreement to explore potential cooperation on SMR development. The detailed project roadmap will be confirmed in early 2020.
An EDF spokesman confirmed the SMRs would be aimed at export markets, in particular countries with small grids, which would be unsuitable for a large nuclear plant, notably markets such as Southeast Asia and the Middle East. The SMRs would typically consist of 170MWe reactors, sold in sets of two or more.
A 2016 report by the OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) estimated that up to 21GW of SMR capacity could be deployed in 2035, accounting for about 3% of total installed nuclear capacity. Currently Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom is leading the field in civil applications for SMRs with the world’s first floating nuclear power plant, the Akademik Lomonosov now docked in the Russian Arctic port of Pevek, in Chukotka region, scheduled to be commissioned by the end of this year. China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) has also started building an SMR, while both the USA and UK are providing funds for SMR development.
Photo: France is looking to design an SMR as part of its Neward project (Credit: TechnicAtome)