GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy awarded grant to develop SMR for UK

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy has been awarded a £33.6m UK Future Nuclear Enabling Fund grant to accelerate regulatory acceptance and its deployment readiness of its BWRX-300 small modular reactor.

Designed to operate for 60 years, the BWRX-300 boiling water reactor has an electrical capacity of 300MWe
Designed to operate for 60 years, the BWRX-300 boiling water reactor has an electrical capacity of 300MWe - GE Hitachi

The company, the nuclear business if GE Vernova, submitted the Future Nuclear Enabling Fund (FNEF) application with a UK team including Jacobs, Laing O’Rourke and Cavendish Nuclear along with Synthos Green Energy (SGE), an investor and developer from Poland.

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) is developing a UK supply chain which includes a memorandum of understanding with Sheffield Forgemasters for a potential supply agreement for UK-sourced steel forgings in support of the deployment of BWRX-300 SMRs.

“The biggest expansion of nuclear power for 70 years is underway in the UK and small modular reactors are front and centre in this rapid revival,” Andrew Bowie, minister for nuclear, said in a statement. “Today’s £33.6m in funding for GE Hitachi will help develop their design, putting us in an excellent position to become one of the first to deploy this game-changing tech.”

In conjunction with the FNEF grant, GEH will enter the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) process for the BWRX-300. GEH will be supported in the GDA by Jacobs, which has supported applications for new nuclear power plant projects in the UK since 2007.

Sean Sexstone, executive vice president, Advanced Nuclear, GEH, said: “We have confidence in our plans and we’re ready to go: the BWRX-300 is a deliverable design which is why we have been selected for SMR programmes around the world including in Canada, Poland and the United States. We will continue to work closely with the UK government to deliver a fleet of reactors here which can help the UK government meet its target of adding up to 24GW of nuclear capacity to the grid by 2050.

Designed to operate for 60 years, the BWRX-300 boiling water reactor has an electrical capacity of 300MWe and requires refuelling every 12 to 24 months. According to GEH, the BWRX-300 uses natural circulation and passive cooling isolation condenser systems ‘to promote simple and safe operating rhythms’. Using a combination of modular and open-top construction techniques, the BWRX-300 can be constructed in 24-36 months while achieving an approximate 90 per cent volume reduction in plant layout.

Commenting on the announcement, Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, said: “This funding shows the UK is committed to supporting SMR development that we need to deliver clean power for net zero and good, green jobs for our communities.

“GE Hitachi’s BWRX-300 has already been ordered for deployment in Canada by a serious and respected nuclear utility in Ontario Power Generation, so it certainly has the potential to play a part in the UK’s own nuclear programme. The design is already being assessed by US and Canadian regulators, so this is also an early chance for the UK to show that we are serious about streamlining regulations and working efficiently with our allies to expedite nuclear deployment.”