European SMR pre-Partnership
On 29 June 2021, in response to the call of the European nuclear industry and the R&D&I community, the European Commission organized the first EU Workshop on Small Modular Reactors (SMRs). This event showed a growing interest across the EU in this technology, which is gaining momentum world-wide, and confirmed its potential to play a role in the overall decarbonisation efforts.
A major outcome of this workshop was the endorsement of a “vision paper” widely supported by the stakeholders, including a proposal for a European SMR Partnership (‘the Partnership’) in the form of a collaboration scheme involving industrial stakeholders, research & technological organisations, interested customers (i.e. utilities and even Member States) as well as European policy-makers and regulators with the aim at creating enabling conditions for the first European SMRs starting operation in the initial years of the next decade.
There is a large number of SMR designs and technologies that are currently at very different stages of development in the EU and worldwide. The EU can play a key role in developing safe and competitive SMRs, with its unique experience and expertise in nuclear technology (including significant research and development capabilities). The engagement in the commercial deployment of SMR projects would prevent the loss of European industrial and research capacities in cutting-edge technology, thus decreasing risks of Europe’s strong dependence on foreign industries.
This Partnership should focus primarily on SMRs technologies that should be available at the very beginning of next decade to play a significant role in reaching the Net Zero goal by 2050 in Europe. To ensure long term sustainability beyond 2050, Advanced Modular Reactors based on new technologies (e.g. technologies reducing significantly the production of radioactive waste or technologies providing heat sources directly usable for different industrial purposes) should also be dealt with in the frame of this Partnership.
The Partnership will facilitate support from national governments and European institutions in relations with third countries and in international fora (roundtables, workshops and other events), to seize opportunities and gain market shares when confronted with competitors from non-EU countries, to develop international marketing and the European SMR value chain.
The launch of the Partnership should be preceded by the creation of a Steering Committee (SC) during a pre-Partnership phase, which should give general direction in drafting and rolling out of a roadmap – shared and endorsed by all the relevant stakeholders – to facilitate the development and deployment of SMRs in Europe.
Objective, tasks and membership of the European SMR pre-Partnership
The objective of the European SMR pre-Partnership is to identify enabling conditions and constraints towards safe design, construction and operation of SMRs in Europe in the next decade and beyond in compliance with the EU legislative framework in general and to the Euratom legislative framework in particular.
Five work-streams (WS) devoted to analysis of the market for SMRs, licencing issues, financing, supply chain adaptation and IR&D shall identify the abovementioned constraints and enabling conditions.
During 2022 and beyond, if necessary, the European SMR pre-Partnership SC should:
- Review and validate the work program (main deliverables, schedule) for each WS;
- Ensure smooth coordination across WSs, set milestones and ensure proper conclusions / outcomes;
- Analyse potential constraints to overcome for the next phase (Partnership) and propose solutions (including policy recommendations at European / national level if needed);
- Review enabling conditions for SMRs development in Europe and propose approaches to activate them or further develop them if necessary;
- Prepare the conditions for the next phase (Partnership implementation phase) which shall cover all relevant aspects (legal, resources, ….) and the ground for the Partnership phase with proper benchmarking of other coalition initiatives at EU level (batteries, hydrogen, etc.);
- Interact / report on progress made with the Stakeholder forum on a regular basis;
- Coordinate relationships with international partners (such as UK, USA, CAN, JP, etc.) and international organisations (such as IAEA, OECD-NEA, etc.).
The main deliverables of the SC during the pre-Partnership phase will be:
- The terms of reference and the work-plans (including specific objectives and milestones) for each WS;
- The necessary roadmap to prepare the creation of this “European SMR Partnership”;
- Reports or analyses summarising the constraints and the enabling conditions in view of the safe design, construction and operation of SMRs in Europe in the next decade and beyond;
- The preliminary governance and the legal framework for the establishment of the “European SMR Partnership”.
These deliverables will be prepared based on inputs provided by the different WSs. Each WS will develop the points mentioned in their own specific objectives with sufficient details, and will meet the milestones for enabling proper preparation on the topics for the Partnership phase.
The SC is made of 9 members representing the involved parties and is assisted in its duties by a Secretariat as defined in article 9.
The SC is composed as follows:
- one member from ENSREG,
- one member from nucleareurope,
- one member from SNETP,
- the nominated Chairs of the five WSs,
WS 1: Market integration and deployment
The main objectives of this WS would be to characterize the European markets and the export markets in a quantitative way ie to examine future market needs for SMRs (flexibility + system services, in a context of high RES deployment), competitiveness, SMRs as technology replacing coal plants, SMRs potential co-generation (non-power) applications for H2 production, desalination, district and process heating, etc. The deliverable will be quantitative market studies.
This WS would also address the question of public opinion on nuclear: how SMRs are perceived.
WS 2: Licensing
The main objectives of this WS would be to streamline nuclear safety licensing processes in interested EU countries in a way that a same SMR design could comply without significant modifications with the regulations set by these different European nuclear regulatory authorities, without hampering their prerogatives. It would identify the elements for establishing a licensing process based on commonly accepted safety assessments from different ENSREG members interested in the licensing of the same SMR design.
WS 3: Financing & partnership
The main objectives of this WS would be to explore and identify all possible options for financing European SMRs, from support to R&D developments, demonstrators up to industrial deployment, including EU and national instruments, (e.g. conditions for a Private Public Partnership at EU level) and to define the needs for a conducive investment environment / framework for SMRs in Europe.
WS 4: Supply Chain adaptation
The main objectives of this WS is to identify specific needs for SMR manufacturing & designs, analyse standardisation potential of SMRs, analyse the potential use of Non-Nuclear standard components, identify ways to maximise new tools and methods in SMRs manufacture & through-life operation/I&M – digitalisation, novel techniques, etc. The work shall focus on the European supply chain.
WS 5: Innovation, Research & Development
The main objectives of this WS would be to define a comprehensive R&D&I strategic agenda and roadmap coherent with market needs, licensing requirements, supply chain readiness and sustainability for SMRs development and their use for various applications (Heat, Hydrogen, …). It should also identify the needed facilities to perform this programme, and set up a coherent and consistent training and education programme.