US nuclear technology company NuScale is aiming to deploy its small modular reactor (SMR) technology in the UK, and is looking for partners which will enable it to have units in service by the middle of the next decade. Working with a five-year cost-sharing award of $217m from the US Department of Energy, the company is aiming to have its first 50MW reactor unit in service in 2023, with a prospective customer in Idaho.
SMR technology is seen by some in the nuclear sector as attractive because, rather than being built up from enormous components that require specialist facilities, they could be made in a more conventional factory much more cheaply.
NuScale’s reactor modules, which are passively-cooled pressurised water reactors somewhat similar to the reactors used in nuclear submarines, are 65ft (19.8m) tall by 9ft (2.75m) in diameter, and use no pumps, with coolant circulated only by convection.
It is designed to be combined in a single power station with up to 11 other modules, which would give a total thermal capacity of 600MW. This would still be smaller than the proposed 1000MW+ units which already have the go-ahead to be built in the UK.
Referring to the 2023 target for first deployment, NuScale chief executive John Hopkins said: ‘We want to replicate this timetable in the UK. We’re scoping out possible sites and our smaller footprint means we can look beyond the usual suspects.”
NuScale already has UK links. It is majority owned by the process contractor Fluor, which is active in the UK; it has worked with the National Nuclear Laboratory on fuel design; and it has worked on skill issues with Rolls-Royce, which builds and maintains the Royal Navy’s submarine reactors.