Holtec and Hyundai E&C partner with British firms to advance UK SMR bid

06 March 2024

South Korea's Hyundai Engineering & Construction, the USA's Holtec International and British construction company Balfour Beatty and engineering firm Mott McDonald have agreed to cooperate on Holtec's bid to construct a small modular reactor in the UK.

The signing of the agreement (Image: Hyundai E&C)

The UK government has plans to expand nuclear energy capacity to 24 GW by 2050, with a fleet of SMRs a key part of that strategy. Last year, the government and the new Great British Nuclear (GBN) arms-length body set up to help deliver that extra capacity began the selection process for which SMR technology to use. In October, EDF, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, Holtec, NuScale Power, Rolls Royce SMR and Westinghouse were invited to bid for UK government contracts in the next stage of the process.

"We are at the final stages now of preparing and getting the approvals for the invitation to submit an initial tender document," GBN chairman Simon Bowen told WNN in January. "This is the next stage where all six companies will engage with our contractual documentation in terms of how we think it should be structured. They'll submit the responses in their initial tender, we will then go through a process to down-select to around about four with the aim to be placing contracts later in the year."

Hyundai E&C and Holtec - referred to as Team Holtec - have now signed an agreement with Balfour Beatty and Mott McDonald to jointly participate in the UK SMR technology competition.

The agreement was signed on 5 March at the Korean Embassy in London in the presence of Korean Ambassador to the UK Yeo-cheol Yoon and John Whittingdale, Britain's special envoy for trade to Korea.

Although specific details about the agreement were not disclosed, Hyundai E&C said the partners "will seek close cooperation in submitting bids for GBN's SMR technology selection project, improving market competitiveness for the final investment selection of SMR deployment in the UK, and establishing strategic partnerships for the future deployment of the first SMR reactor".

"Based on this agreement, Hyundai E&C plans to expand the foundation for its entry into the UK SMR business and at the same time further solidify the foundation for its entry into the global SMR business based on its unrivaled technological capabilities and strong mutual trust," it added.

Balfour Beatty announced in December 2022 that it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Holtec Britain - a subsidiary of Holtec International - to support the planning advancement for the construction of Holtec's SMR-160 in the UK. Under that MoU, Balfour Beatty will act as the main UK construction partner and collaborate with Hyundai E&C on the civil construction and installation of the mechanical, electrical and heating, ventilation and cooling systems as well as the equipment required for Holtec's SMRs.

In December last year, Mott MacDonald was appointed as the delivery partner for the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) of Holtec's larger SMR-300 in the UK. Having successfully supported Holtec Britain in securing GBP30 million (USD38 million) of grant funding from the UK government's Future Nuclear Enabling Fund for the GDA, Mott MacDonald is now providing safety, engineering, environmental, and regulatory support to Holtec Britain throughout the process.

In November 2021, Holtec and Hyundai E&C signed a teaming agreement under which Hyundai E&C will perform the detailed design of the balance of plant and prepare the full plant construction specification for the SMR-160, which Holtec has been developing since 2010. The Korean company will also develop the integrated 3D plant model for construction using its Building Information Modelling management process. The partnership also provides for project delivery rights for Hyundai, subject to certain provisions. In October 2022, the two companies agreed to accelerate the programme to complete the balance of plant design of the remaining systems and structures for the SMR-160.

Holtec's 160 MWe SMR is a pressurised light-water reactor using low-enriched uranium fuel. The design has completed the first phase of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission's three-phase pre-licensing vendor design review and is undergoing pre-licensing activities with the US NRC. Holtec has also applied for a Generic Design Assessment of the SMR-160 in the UK. Among the countries it is being considered is Ukraine, with a cooperation agreement signed earlier this year with a target date of supplying power by March 2029, and potentially up to 20 SMRs eventually across the country.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News