French regulatory review of Newcleo SMR progresses

02 July 2024

Innovative reactor developer Newcleo announced it has completed the preparatory stage set up by the French authorities for developers of small modular reactor projects to facilitate, secure and accelerate the review of licence applications.

A rendering of the LFR AS-30 (Image: Newcleo)

The first step of London-headquartered Newcleo's delivery roadmap will be the design and construction of the first-of-a-kind 30 MWe lead-cooled fast reactor (LFR) to be deployed in France by 2030, followed by a 200 MWe commercial unit in the UK by 2033.

At the same time, Newcleo will directly invest in a mixed uranium/plutonium oxide (MOX) plant to fuel its reactors. In June 2022, Newcleo announced it had contracted France's Orano for feasibility studies on the establishment of a MOX production plant.

Newcleo said that during the preparatory stage, the French nuclear regulator Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire (ASN) and the Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN) assessed the maturity of its project and discussed all safety options for its LFR projects and the associated nuclear fuel manufacturing plant. The conclusion of this preparatory stage follows numerous technical meetings involving approximately 20 specialised experts from the authorities, as well as the development of a range of preparatory documents covering various technical topics.

The completion of the preparatory phase on 26 June will be followed by the submission of official technical options for both the LFR and the MOX manufacturing plant. The French authorities will then establish a written advice which, along with other considerations derived from the preparatory phase discussions, will allow a faster process to grant the necessary authorisation decrees to Newcleo.

"We are all thrilled that our project has reached this key milestone in the rigorous process leading Newcleo to obtain the required authorisations for the launch of this new sustainable nuclear sector," said Newcleo Global Licensing Director Stéphane Calpena. "The constructive discussions we have had with experts from the French authorities have been invaluable, enabling us to guide our design choices and associated safety requirements to meet the exceptionally high standards that French nuclear energy is known for."

In January, Newcleo announced a strategic and industrial partnership with French micro-reactor developer Naarea designed "to support all players in their industrial, technological, scientific and regulatory development" of Generation IV fast neutron reactors. The companies said that the partnership will be open to others to join and said it will focus on key areas where there are common interests, such as gaining access to the used nuclear fuel from conventional nuclear reactors that their Gen-IV reactors are designed to use as part of their efforts to close the fuel cycle.

Newcleo was a winner of the 'Innovative nuclear reactors' call for projects under the 'France 2030' investment plan implemented by Bpifrance and financed by the European Union - Next Generation EU as part of France's economic recovery plan (Plan France Relance).

Newcleo said its LFR AS-30 reactor design has been optimised over the last 20 years leading to the concept of an ultra-compact and transportable 200 MWe module with improvements in energy density compared with other technologies. Costs are kept low by means of simplicity, compactness, modularity, atmospheric pressure operation and elevated output temperature.

In order to best prepare for possible requests for authorisation to construct SMR projects, and with a view to mobilising resources proportionate to the level of maturity of each project, a progressive framework of technical exchanges in four phases has been put in place.

Newcleo's LFR is one of about ten SMR designs being evaluated by ASN and IRSN. Four vendors are currently in the initial stage, referred to as prospective monitoring (Blue Capsule, Hexana, Out and Stellaria). Newcleo has now joined Naarea, Calogena and Thorizon in step 2, the preparatory review. Nuward is in the third step, the pre-instruction stage where ASN will deliver an opinion on the main safety options to be used in its SMR design, while Jimmy is in step 4, where it has requested a "creation authorisation decree" from ASN to construct an SMR intended to supply industrial heat to a Cristal Union Group plant located on the Bazancourt site. 

Researched and written by World Nuclear News