EDF teams up with Italian partners on SMR development

06 March 2023

France's EDF has signed a Letter of Intent with Italy's Ansaldo Energia, Ansaldo Nucleare and Edison to assess potential industrial cooperation for the development of nuclear power in Europe, including in Italy, specifically in the field of small modular reactors (SMRs).

(Image: Ansaldo Energia)

"The aim of the agreement is to immediately leverage on the expertise of the Italian nuclear power sector, headed by Ansaldo Nucleare, in order to support the development of EDF Group's new nuclear projects, and at the same time to open a debate on the possible role of new nuclear power in Italy's energy transition," the partners said in a joint statement.

In particular, the companies plan to explore potential industrial cooperation, drawing on their respective skills. Ansaldo Energia Group is a developer of engineering components and service provider for the energy and nuclear industry, while Edison is a leading Italian energy player, "fully engaged in Italy's energy transition". EDF is involved in new nuclear projects based on its portfolio of technologies, including the Nuward SMR, the mid-size EPR1200 reactor and the large-size EPR reactor.

Ansaldo Energia, EDF and Edison (an EDF subsidiary) said they will assess the potential for the development and implementation of new nuclear power in Italy, "given the growing need for energy security and independence of the Italian electricity system".

"Subsequent binding agreements, to be defined by the parties, will follow this Letter of Intent," they added.

"This agreement lays the foundations for a concrete and open reflection on the role of new nuclear power in supporting Italian energy transition," said Edison CEO Nicola Monti. "This need has become more evident following the upheavals of the past year, confirming the importance of long-term strategic choices. New nuclear power complements the development of renewables and can be an adequate solution to support the 2050 carbon neutrality goals, contributing to the energy independence of the European system".

Ansaldo Nucleare CEO Riccardo Casale added: "Ansaldo Energia Group managed to successfully keep its nuclear expertise alive, after the closing of nuclear power plants in Italy. We strongly believe in this mission and actively participate in many projects in several European countries, in collaboration with Italian industries and research organisations, testifying the high added value that Italy can bring to the renewed interest in nuclear power in Europe".

"EDF has the ambition to foster international partnerships to deploy a portfolio of nuclear technologies to support Europe towards its net-zero targets," said Vakis Ramany, EDF Senior Vice President in charge of international new nuclear development. "We are willing to strengthen the cooperation with the Italian industry and the signing of this Letter of Intent with Ansaldo Energia, Ansaldo Nucleare and Edison is a first important step towards a stronger and lasting partnership. This will reinforce the European supply chain of our technologies in a context where many European countries are planning for new nuclear programmes".

The Nuward project was launched in September 2019 by the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), EDF, Naval Group and TechnicAtome. The Nuward - consisting of a 340 MWe SMR plant with two pressurised water reactors (PWRs) of 170 MWe each - has been jointly developed using France's experience in PWRs. The technology is expected to replace old high CO2-emitting coal, oil and gas plants around the world and support other applications such as hydrogen production, urban and district heating or desalination.

EDF and Ansaldo Nucleare recently signed a first contract for provision of engineering studies for the Nuward SMR.

Italy operated a total of four nuclear power plants starting in the early 1960s but decided to phase out nuclear power in a referendum that followed the 1986 Chernobyl accident. It closed its last two operating plants, Caorso and Trino Vercellese, in 1990.

In late March 2011, following the Fukushima Daiichi accident, the Italian government approved a moratorium of at least one year on construction of nuclear power plants in the country, which had been looking to restart its long-abandoned nuclear programme. In a poll held in June of that year, 94% of voters rejected the construction of any new nuclear reactors in Italy. However, a poll conducted in June 2021 showed that one-third of Italians were in favour of reconsidering the use of nuclear energy in the country, with more than half of respondents saying they would not exclude the future use of new advanced nuclear technologies.

In October 2022, Westinghouse and Ansaldo Nucleare signed a new cooperation agreement to develop a next generation nuclear power plant based on Lead-cooled Fast Reactor (LFR) technology. In March last year, UK-based innovative reactor developer Newcleo signed a framework agreement with ENEA - the Italian national agency for new technologies, energy and sustainable economic development - to cooperate on the development of small LFRs.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News