Rolls-Royce partners for SMR fuel design and analytics
Rolls-Royce SMR has awarded a contract to Westinghouse for the development of a fuel design for its small modular reactor (SMR). Meanwhile, it has partnered with the UK's National Physical Laboratory to investigate safe automated reactor operation for SMRs.
How a Rolls-Royce SMR might look (Image: Rolls-Royce SMR)
Westinghouse Electric Company UK Ltd is to develop a fuel design for the Rolls-Royce SMR. The design work - undertaken jointly in the UK and USA - includes associated core components and will be based on an existing Westinghouse pressurised water reactor (PWR) fuel assembly design.
Rolls-Royce SMR said development of the fuel design is "a vital part of the ongoing Generic Design Assessment (GDA) by the UK's independent regulators".
"Placing the contract to design the fuel for the Rolls-Royce SMR is an important step in our programme of work as we progress through the GDA process with the UK's nuclear regulators," said Rolls-Royce SMR's Regulatory Affairs and Safety Director Helena Perry. "Westinghouse has a strong heritage and unrivalled experience in nuclear fuel design and manufacturing.
"Placing this contract with Westinghouse will help deliver our commitment to maximise UK supply chain content and will support a long-term sustainable future for the nuclear industry."
"This collaboration between Westinghouse and Rolls-Royce SMR will help drive the future of nuclear fuel deployment," added Tarik Choho, Westinghouse President of Nuclear Fuel. "Westinghouse is proud to bring its generations of experience designing and manufacturing fuel in the UK. This contract presents an exciting opportunity for our Springfields site in Lancashire."
The announcement of the contract was welcomed by the UK's Nuclear Industry Association (NIA). "This partnership is vital to reigniting Britain's nuclear capabilities on a domestic and global stage," said NIA Chief Executive Tom Greatrex.
"It will strengthen the wider nuclear supply chain and shows the importance of maximising UK nuclear content as we develop a programme of new power stations to strengthen energy security and green our power grid.
"We must also ensure we are world leaders in the design and manufacture of nuclear fuel so we can establish a sovereign supply chain as the West looks to break free from reliance on Russian nuclear fuel."
The Rolls-Royce SMR, a 470 MWe design based on a small PWR, has progressed to the second stage of the UK's Generic Design Assessment, the only SMR to reach that stage so far. It is one of six SMR designs - which also includes Westinghouse's own AP300 - selected earlier this month by Great British Nuclear to bid for UK government contracts. The aim is for a final investment decision to be taken in 2029.
Automated monitoring of SMRs
The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) announced it is partnering with Rolls-Royce SMR to investigate the potential of using inductively coupled plasma tandem mass spectrometry - a technique for measuring the elemental composition of samples - for the automated measurement of the constituents in different water chemistries within a Rolls-Royce SMR as an indicator of reactor operating conditions.
"When developing SMRs, there is a need for automated analytical capabilities to minimise onsite lab testing, reduce waste, the footprint of the site, as well as capital and operational costs," it said.
NPL noted the advantages of the mass spectrometric technique have been widely published and include: simultaneous measurement of multiple elements; rapid measurement time of several minutes per sample; little or no sample preparation; and reduced analyst time.
It said the NPL Rolls-Royce SMR project "offers an opportunity to apply tried and tested techniques to the safe and effective operation of SMRs".
"The Nuclear Metrology group has pushed inductively coupled plasma tandem mass spectrometry to advance measurement capabilities for low level radioactivity measurement, with the methods and standards developed increasingly used by industry, academia, and other measurement institutes." said Ben Russell, Principal Scientist and Science Area Leader for Nuclear Metrology at NPL. "We are excited to apply this technique to solving measurement challenges related to automated monitoring of SMRs."
Greg Wilkinson, Research and Technology Manager at Rolls-Royce SMR, added: "Rolls-Royce SMR offers a radically different approach to delivering nuclear power. Our design utilises long-established and well-understood PWR technology, allowing us to focus our research efforts in key areas, including in the development of inductively coupled plasma tandem mass spectrometry with NPL, to supplement and further enhance this technology. We look forward to collaborating with NPL's world-leading nuclear metrology team to achieve our vision of delivering clean, affordable energy for all."