Belgian engineering firm Tractebel (part of French energy company Engie) has signed a Framework Cooperation Agreement with France’s Nuward and EDF to strengthen and extend collaboration in the development of the Nuward small modular reactor (SMR) technology. For over 50 years, Tractebel nuclear experts have supported the EDF Group in designing and operating the French nuclear fleet and building reactors in France and abroad.

Collaboration with EDF on the Nuward SMR project started in 2021. Tractebel contributed to the finalisation of the conceptual design phase and has worked on the nuclear island and the conventional part of the plant for the basic design phase. The partners have now decided to deepen and extend their collaboration going forward.

In March 2023, EDF created its subsidiary Nuward and began the basic design phase of the Nuward SMR project. It resulted in a significant increase in the human resources required for the project.

According to EDF's SMR roadmap, the phase involving the detailed design and formal application for a new nuclear facility is scheduled to be carried out between 2025 and 2030, during which time the design is expected to be certified and the supply chain developed.

The aim is to achieve first nuclear concrete for its reference plant in France in 2030, after finalising the conceptual design phase of the project. Construction is expected to take three years. A Design and Safety options file is scheduled to be submitted to the French Nuclear Safety Authority next month.

The Nuward SMR, based on proven PWR technology, is a 340 MWe plant with two reactors of 170 MWe each. The Nuward company continues to work with its established partners – the Atomic Energy Commission (CEA – Commissariat à l'énergie Atomique et aux énergies Alternatives), TechnicAtome and Naval Group. It also co-operates with more recent partners – Framatome and Tractebel.

Nuward’s workforce is expected to increase to about 150 in its core team by 2024, with more than 600 in total including partners' staff contributing to the project. Under the new agreement, Tractebel will allocate more resources to Nuward SMR in all the fields of nuclear engineering. Around 50 engineers from Tractebel are currently working on the Nuward SMR project. This number is expected to double in the coming years.

Tractebel’s Chief Global Nuclear Officer, Denis Dumont, says Tractebel has been leading innovation in SMR development for the past five years. “We are convinced that this technology will play a key role in the energy transition in Europe and worldwide. The cooperation agreement with Nuward reinforces our commitment to the development of the first EU SMR technology. Tractebel brings a European and industrial perspective to Nuward. Our engineers have worked on projects in several European countries to investigate SMRs’ potential to decarbonize heavy industries and retrofit coal power plants. We can leverage this experience to extend the industrial applications of the Nuward SMR technology and support Nuward in its projects outside France.”

Nuward Executive President Renaud Crassous says Tractebel is a key partner for Nuward, alongside the other partners. The competition for skilled workers has become fierce within the nuclear industry. Building a Europe-wide team for the Nuward SMR project is crucial to support our ambition in positioning Nuward SMR as the European benchmark for small modular reactors.”

Image (from left to right): Sébastien Pageaud, Tractebel's SMR Europe Project Manager; Renaud Crassous, Nuward's Executive President; Denis Dumont, Tractebel's Chief Global Nuclear Officer; and Philippe Van Troeye, CEO of Tractebel at the signing of the Framework Cooperation Agreement (courtesy of Tractebel)