Four Reactors are Better than One, UK Says

A rendering of the AP300 reactor, a white building in a green environment
Image: Westinghouse

Privately-funded SMRs are hitting the UK for the first time.

On Thursday, energy giant Westinghouse announced that it signed an agreement with Community Nuclear Power, Ltd. (CNP) to deploy four of its AP300 SMRs in the English North Teesside region. 

  • For the uninitiated, SMR = Small Modular Reactor, an innovation on the form of the traditional big ol’ water-cooled system.
  • The AP300 SMR design is a scaled-down version of Westinghouse’s AP1000 reactor. It uses one loop instead of two and is expected to generate ~300 megawatts of energy vs. the larger’s ~1,200 megawatts.

Under the agreement, CNP and Westinghouse hope to get a fleet of four AP300s up to full commercial operations by the early 2030s.

Scaling down: So why deploy four small reactors instead of one big one that produces the same amount of energy…and the bigger version is already licensed, proven, and operational at several sites around the globe? The project is likely to be more costly overall than building one large reactor would be.

It has the added benefit, though, of flexibility. The smaller reactors may be a better match to support the energy-intensive industrial operations around North Teesside. And with uncertain funding prospects for the private enterprise going forward, it may be more feasible to get a smaller reactor or two online than try for a big one and get nothing at all.

The road ahead: With the speedy licensing process Westinghouse is hoping for given the AP300 reactor’s similarity to the already-approved AP1000 design, the team is hoping to have the new fleet fully licensed by 2027. The first reactor is intended to be online and operational by the early 2030s.

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