Nuward: EDF to Revise Design of Its European SMR

Based on initial market feedback and as the concept has reached the detailed preliminary design phase, a decision has been made to revise the Nuward SMR project. To ensure adherence to timelines and budgets, the revised version will rely on existing, proven technologies.

On Monday, July 1st, following press speculations, EDF confirmed that the Nuward governance had decided to completely overhaul the design of its SMR, developed in collaboration with TechnicAtome, the CEA, Framatome, and Naval Group. This shift comes at a critical juncture in the reactor’s development as it has reached the basic design stage.

The decision to overhaul Nuward’s design was based on feedback from initial prospective customers in Europe, reviews by six safety authorities (a world first), and an international advisory committee (consisting of 11 specialized entities). The aim is to meet market expectations by de-risking the project.

Building on a Strong Foundation

One of the demands from potential clients, as seen in the recent decision by Vattenfall in Sweden, is to rely solely on proven technological solutions to ensure timelines and budgets are respected. Nuward is currently the only third-generation SMR project spearheaded by a European entity (EU). This is crucial to withstand competition from American companies like GE or Westinghouse. Meeting the expectations of the European market is critical for the development of Nuward, whose competitiveness will depend on achieving economies of scale.

Although third-generation technology is already the most advanced, it was decided to further simplify Nuward by focusing on readily available technologies. Specifically, the innovative idea of an integrated boiler (combining the reactor vessel and steam generators) has been discarded in favor of a more traditional design, thus enhancing technical feasibility and reducing construction costs and times.

Electricity and Heat

The Nuward reactor aims to address Europe’s decarbonization needs in electricity and heat production. Currently, over 36% of the European electricity mix is still derived from fossil fuels. Regarding heat, both industrial and urban, which in France accounts for about 50% of final energy consumption, 60% is generated from fossil fuels, predominantly gas. SMRs like Nuward are suited for replacing coal-fired plants site-by-site or for powering large industrial facilities.

The challenge of improving the reliability of SMR designs is not unique to Nuward in France. In the United States, where there is substantial federal support for these small reactors, the focus is on proven technologies for advancing to the deployment phase. For example, last March, the Department of Energy (DOE) launched a campaign specifically for deploying two mature light-water reactors designs. The winners are yet to be announced, but simple designs like GE’s BWRX-300 (a miniature version of the boiling water reactor ESBWR/ABWR) appear to be frontrunners. ■

By Ludovic Dupin (Sfen)

Image : ©Nuward