Swedish power utility Vattenfall has moved ahead with plans for new nuclear units next to the Ringhals NPP in Sweden. From six potential suppliers of small modular reactors (SMR), Vattenfall has shortlisted the UK-based Rolls-Royce SMR and US GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) for ongoing evaluation. The other four possible suppliers were not identified. Vattenfall will also continue to investigate the construction of large-scale reactors on the site.

In June 2022, Vattenfall started a feasibility study to assess whether the commercial, legal and technical conditions were in place to build at least two SMRs at Ringhals on the Värö peninsula. If the conditions are met, the aim is to start commercial operation of new nuclear power in the first half of the 2030s. To achieve this, Vattenfall said it would have to carry out preparatory work by autumn 2023.

The feasibility study in February 2024 concluded that:

  • The site is suitable, but has space limitations;
  • There are good opportunities to share existing assets at the site;
  • The permitting process works for SMRs but needs to become more efficient;
  • Nuclear waste can be handled with existing technology, but new final repositories requires a programme.

Vattenfall said SMR technology remains promising. Risk-sharing with the state is a prerequisite for a profitable investment, including for SMRs. However, “the overall assessment is that the commercialisation of the technology will take slightly longer than previously communicated by suppliers”.

Desirée Comstedt, Head of new nuclear power at Vattenfall, said: “Shortlisting two potential suppliers of small modular reactors is one of several steps in our continued work towards new nuclear power on the Värö Peninsula at Ringhals. It is also a prerequisite for us to be able to continue to move forward at speed with the extensive work involved, which requires us – among other things – to submit applications for new nuclear reactors for examination by the responsible Swedish authorities.”

The next steps will include detailed analysis of the proposals made by the two SMR suppliers, and then joint production of a timetable for the option of building the SMRs.

Rolls-Royce SMR welcomed its selection. Rolls-Royce SMR CEO Chris Cholerton, said: “We are delighted to be one of the two SMR technologies selected by Vattenfall for further evaluation in Sweden. Success in reaching the final two, in such a fiercely competitive process, reflects the benefits of our integrated power station design, our approach to modularisation and our use of proven nuclear technology.”

Rolls-Royce SMR is on track to complete Step 2 and immediately enter Step 3 of the Generic Design Assessment by the UK nuclear industry’s independent regulators this summer.

GEH’s BWRX-300 has been under consideration in Sweden since 2022 when Kärnfull Next, Sweden’s first project development company focusing on SMRs signed a memorandum of understanding with GEH regarding the BWRX-300. The design and licensing is based on larger boiling water reactors, a technology familiar to Sweden.

Vattenfall said it will also continue to investigate the conditions for building large-scale reactors. The suppliers included in the evaluation for large-scale reactors are US-based Westinghouse, Électricité de France and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power.

“We haven’t made a choice of reactor technology yet. Regardless of whether we choose small modular reactors or large-scale reactors, a future investment decision will, among other things, require a reasonable risk-sharing model with the state,” said Comstedt. “This is necessary to lower financing costs and thereby enable a reasonable cost for electricity production that customers are prepared to pay.”

Vattenfall’s said the starting point for continued work, regardless of reactor type, is that it should be possible to have a new reactor in operation in the first half of the 2030s at the earliest.