Fermi signs accords with GEH, Rolls Royce; UKSMR joins Foratom

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General Electric Hitachi's BWRX-300 (Source: GEH)

U.S. small modular reactor (SMR) developer GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) and Estonian operator Fermi Energia have entered into an agreement to support the development of GEH’s BWRX-300 SMR in the Northern European country, GEH said in a statement in March.

The two companies previously signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in 2019 agreeing to examine the economic feasibility of deploying the SMR in Estonia.

The most recent accord will mean GEH will support the Estonian group in licensing, human resources, supply chain development and continued development of the information and analysis needed for potential deployment of the BWRX-300, the statement said.

“We believe the innovative BWRX-300 SMR is an ideal solution for Estonia’s carbon-free energy needs and we look forward to continuing our work with the Fermi Energia team,” GEH Executive Vice President Jon Ball said.

Fermi Energia, which was formed to bring SMRs to Estonia, also signed a MoU with Rolls Royce in March to study the potential deployment of a SMR under development by the Rolls-Royce-led consortium UKSMR, Fermi said in a separate statement.

"Rolls-Royce SMR is certainly a worthy candidate for a reactor, thanks to the British government's strong political commitment to nuclear energy and its serious commitment to climate neutrality, for which there is also adequate public funding,” said Kalev Kallemets, CEO of Fermi Energia.

Fermi Energia is also evaluating technologies offered by Moltex Energy, NuScale, Terrestrial and the Ultra Safe Nuclear Company and the final choice of technology will be made once the first reactor type of its kind has been licensed, completed, and proven its performance and suitability in the United States, Canada or the United Kingdom, Fermi said.


The Rolls-Royce-led UKSMR consortium has joined the European nuclear industry association FORATOM in a push to develop its global reach, Rolls-Royce said in a statement in March.

The consortium is designing an SMR which it claims will be a low-cost, factory built nuclear power station. SMRs are defined the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) as light water reactor designs generating 300 MWe or less.

“(Nuclear power) is a compelling proposition that has a clear role to play in tackling climate change and to achieve that it’s important we collaborate with highly experienced nuclear industry partners across Europe to accelerate the deployment of the SMR to achieve net zero ambitions,” said interim Chief Executive Officer of the UKSMR consortium Tom Samson.

The UKSMR consortium members include Assystem, Atkins, BAM Nuttall, Jacobs, Laing O’Rourke, National Nuclear Laboratory, Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, Rolls-Royce and TWI.

“We are happy to be able to benefit from the expertise of the UKSMR consortium and its experts in this field in order to ensure that the potential of SMRs is fully recognized by EU decision makers,” FORATOM Director General Yves Desbazeille said.

FORATOM signed a MoU with the Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA) in January to collaborate in nuclear and promote clean, innovative and advanced nuclear technologies.

China to raise nuclear capacity in five-year plan

China aims to raise its total nuclear capacity to 70 GW by the end of the 2025 from 51 GW at the end of last year as part of its drive to become carbon neutral by 2060, Reuters reported citing industry delegates at the annual session of parliament.

The increase forms part of the country’s 2021-2025 five-year plan though has been criticized for not being enough and calls for a further increase in construction.

“By 2035, nuclear plants in operation should reach around 180 gigawatts, amounting to 5% of total capacity,” Luo Qi, an expert with China’s Atomic Energy Research Institute and member of parliament’s advisory second chamber, said in a proposal published by the state-owned China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC).

China’s nuclear sector has been hit by long construction delays at large projects, cost concerns and approval slow downs after the Fukushima Daiichi disaster in Japan in 2011, Reuters said.

CNNC is pushing for bulk construction of its own Gen III pressurized water nuclear reactor Hualong One and, according to industry officials cited by the news agency, at least six new units should be commissioned every year to benefit from economies of scale.

Moltex granted funding from Canada government

Moltex has received a $50.5 million grant from the Canada’s Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) and AtlanticCanada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) for its work in designing and commercializing a molten salt reactor and spent duel recycling facility, the company said in March.

Moltex aims to build a 300 MW Stable Salt Reactor – Wasteburner (SSR-W) and Waste To Stable Salt (WATSS) facility at the Point Lepreau Generating Station site in Saint John, New Brunswick to provide power to the grid by the early 2030s, the company says.

“The investment announced today will play a critical role in fighting climate change and will boost Canada’s economic stabilization after the pandemic,” said François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry.

Moltex will match SIF’s contribution, worth $47.5 million of the total federal government investment, to advance the SSR-W and WATSS designs and validate key assumptions to support the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s Pre-Licensing Vendor Design Review Phase 2, while the remaining $3 million will come from ACOA funds and will be used for WATSS research, Moltex said.

By Reuters Events Nuclear