EDF Exits the UK’s SMR Competition

The most recent Nuward design. Image: EDF

There’s one less company in the race to build an SMR for Britain.

This week, Électricité de France (EDF), the French state power company, withdrew its Nuward SMR concept from a key UK program just before the competition’s latest deadline. The Nuward SMR concept is experiencing some growing pains, and the company doesn’t have a design ready for primetime.

A different approach: The failure to meet the UK solicitation deadline came just a few days after EDF announced it was taking a different approach to building SMRs. Where before, the Nuward design concept would have integrated new, in-house technologies, the company will now design an SMR using existing technologies.

  • EDF has been developing the Nuward concept for the last four years but hasn’t revealed any details about how much the design will have to change.
  • A Nuward source told Reuters last week that the decision was made to reassure potential buyers that development costs won’t balloon before the project is complete.

Now, EDF plans to use existing technologies and assemble them into a more cost-effective version of an SMR. What technologies those are and how they’ll be assembled remains to be seen.

The British competition: Five other companies are still vying for one of the two coveted spots in the UK’s SMR program, whose winners are expected to be named this year. And the nominees are:

  1. Rolls-Royce, with its Rolls-Royce SMR design
  2. GE Hitachi, with its BWRX-300 concept
  3. Westinghouse, which is building an AP300 SMR that is essentially a scaled-down version of the popular AP1000 light water reactor
  4. Holtec Britain, which is working on its SMR-300
  5. Nuscale Power ($SMR) and its Nuscale SMR project

What’s next? The British SMR competition has already been delayed once, and the bidders are hoping that there won’t be further postponements. The recent elections have created additional uncertainty: While the new Labour government in the UK has signaled its support for nuclear, the extent of that support remains to be seen. Barring any changes, however, two award recipients will be selected by the end of 2024.

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