Rolls Royce starts Generic Design Assessment for SMR

18 November 2021

Rolls-Royce SMR Rolls-Royce has asked the UK government for clearance to begin the 4-5 year long process of seeking regulatory approval for its small modular reactor (SMR) through the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) process.

Earlier in November the UK supported a $546 million funding round at the company to develop the SMR, in a drive to reach net zero carbon emissions and promote new technology with export potential.  "This is an important moment for the nuclear industry, as a UK SMR reactor design enters the initial process for regulatory approval for the first time," said Helena Perry, Regulatory and Safety Affairs Director at Rolls-Royce in a statement.

The 470MWe Rolls-Royce SMR design is based on a small pressurised water reactor. The GDA, carried out by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and the Environment Agency (EA) aims to assess the safety, security, and environmental protection aspects of a nuclear power plant design that is intended for deployment in the UK. Successful completion of the GDA culminates in the issue of a Design Acceptance Confirmation (DAC) from the ONR and a Statement of Design Acceptability (SoDA) from the EA.

In May, the UK's Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) opened the GDA process to advanced nuclear technologies, including SMRs. Rolls-Royce SMR  has submitted a Notice of Intention to apply for GDA Entry to BEIS, which will now carry out an initial screening process to confirm the business is suitability qualified.  Perry noted:  "We have already made 270 design decisions during our pre-licensing engagement and are confident of working with the experienced regulatory teams to deliver an efficient GDA process. "We will have around 300 people working full time on these important regulatory processes.” 

Rolls-Royce Group announced earlier this month the establishment of Rolls-Royce SMR Limited for the deployment and commercialisation of its SMR technology. The announcement came after it secured £210 million ($285 million) in funding from the UK government, matched by more than £250 million of private investment.

Rolls-Royce Group, BNF Resources UK Limited and Exelon Generation Limited will invest £195 million over about three years in the new business. This funding will enable the business to secure grant funding of £210 million from UK Research and Innovation. Rolls-Royce Group will own approximately 80% of Rolls-Royce SMR.

A Rolls-Royce-led UK SMR consortium aims to build 16 SMRs. The consortium — which includes Assystem, Atkins, BAM Nuttall, Jacobs, Laing O'Rourke, National Nuclear Laboratory, the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre and TWI - aims to complete its first unit in the early 2030s and build up to 10 by 2035. The target cost for each station is £1.8 billion after five have been built, with further savings possible.  

How the Rolls-Royce SMR might look (photo: Rolls-Royce)

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