French companies unveil “best in class” small modular reactor design

A new design of small modular reactor (SMR) has been announced by a team of French companies, who claim that it will benefit from "best in class" French technologies developed over more than 50 years.

The Nuward reactor was unveiled at the International Atomic Energy Authority conference in Vienna this week. It is the result of collaboration between the Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), EDF, Naval Group and TechnicAtome.

They said the pressurised water reactor will have a capacity of between 300MW and 400MW, and will introduce "significant innovations with major benefits to the operator and product’s competitiveness".

Advantages listed included a simple, compact design, flexibility in construction and operation, and innovative safety features.

The CEA helped with research and qualification, EDF contributed its experience in systems integration and operation, naval defence company Naval Group handled the modular aspect and TechnicAtome provided its compact reactor design experience.

Jean-Bernard Lévy, chief executive of EDF commented: "Alongside our partners, we believe the project unveiled today is a promising beginning of a safe and competitive nuclear design meant to broaden the range of solutions for low carbon baseload energy offered by the French nuclear industry."

Hervé Guillou, chief executive of Navel Group, added: "For more than 40 years, Naval Group has been building nuclear submarine and aircraft carriers whose propulsion energy is supplied by small nuclear energy production units. Naval Group is thus committed to the highest standards of safety, competitivity and innovation in the nuclear field."

The Nuward partners said they were open to international cooperation, "notably to foster the harmonisation of regulation, the standardisation of design and design optimisation". CEA and EDF have begun discussions with Westinghouse of the US to explore potential cooperation on SMR development.

EDF and Westinghouse are looking at SMRs as a way of producing relatively cheap and low risk nuclear units after struggling with years of delay and billions of dollars of cost overruns on their big nuclear reactors. The alliance hopes to bring a product to market "at the end of the next decade".

Image: TechnicAtome’s image of its Nuward reactor

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