Rolls-Royce SMR Limited's 470 MWe small modular reactor (SMR) design has completed the first step of the UK's Generic Design Assessment (GDA) process and is expected to complete the second step by July 2024. Rolls-Royce then aims to complete Step 3 – Detailed Assessment, in August 2026. Entry into Step 3 will be subject to regulatory agreement, and confirmation that appropriate funding and resources are in place.

The three-step GDA process is carried out by the Office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR), the Environment Agency (EA) and Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to assess the safety, security, and environmental protection aspects of any nuclear power plant design intended for deployment in the UK. At the end of the process, a Design Acceptance Confirmation will be issued by ONR and a Statement of Design Acceptability from EA.

In May 2021, the UK's Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) opened the GDA process to advanced nuclear technologies, including SMRs and Rolls-Royce SMR Limited submitted a Notice of Intention to apply for GDA Entry the following November. The design was accepted for review in March 2022.

"During Step 1 we have undertaken more than 200 engagements and assessed more than 40 submissions," the regulators said. "The information submitted met all the requirements from our guidance and demonstrated a good understanding of UK practice and regulatory expectations. We take confidence from these submissions that [Rolls-Royce SMR Ltd] has a clear view of what is needed to progress through the GDA and how it will justify its design".

The SMR design has now entered Step 2 of the GDA process, which is where the detailed technical assessment by the regulators is carried out. "We have agreed a submission schedule with [Rolls-Royce SMR Ltd], which includes the submission of more than 500 documents during Step 2," the regulators said.

Rolls-Royce SMR Ltd's Safety and Regulatory Affairs Director, Helena Perry said: "This is a huge stride forward for our project and, through the independent scrutiny of our regulators, further increases confidence in the viability of the Rolls-Royce SMR design."

The regulators said they had carried out a review of Rolls-Royce SMR Ltd’s progress in Step 1 and of its readiness reviews. “We have determined that the arrangements and resources Rolls-Royce SMR Ltd has put in place to carry out the GDA are adequate to progress to Step 2. We have agreed a schedule for submitting the environment case information during Step 2. We have also agreed how any outstanding information from Step 1 will be dealt with in Step 2 of GDA.” They added: “Our next steps will be to finalise our schedule of work and plans for Step 2, and then begin to review and assess the submissions that will be provided by Rolls-Royce SMR Ltd during Step 2.”

Image: Design of the Rolls-Royce SMR (courtesy of ONR)