Rolls-Royce SMR design progresses to next step of Generic Design Assessment

The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), the Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales (NRW) announced today that they are progressing to the next phase of their assessment of Rolls-Royce SMR Ltd’s 470 MW Small Modular Reactor (SMR) design.

The process, known as Generic Design Assessment (GDA), allows the regulators to begin assessing the safety, security, safeguards and environmental aspects of new reactor designs before site-specific proposals are brought forward.

Step 1 of the GDA began in April 2022 and this stage has now been successfully completed following preparatory work by Rolls-Royce SMR Ltd and the regulators.

Today also marks the start of Step 2 which is expected to last for 16 months.

Step 1 has involved agreeing the scope of the GDA which has been based on information supplied by Rolls-Royce SMR Ltd to ONR, the Environment Agency and NRW so the regulators can undertake a meaningful assessment of the design.

During the past year, Rolls-Royce SMR Ltd has completed all the requirements for Step 1 from the regulators' guidance with good progress made in developing its organisation and arrangements to support GDA.

Rolls-Royce SMR Ltd has now launched a comments process on its new website, which enables anyone to submit comments and questions about the reactor design to the company for its response.

Relevant issues raised during the comments process, and Rolls-Royce SMR Ltd’s responses to these issues, will be used to help inform the regulators’ assessments throughout the rest of the GDA process.

Rob Exley, ONR's Head of Generic Design Assessment, said:

"The purpose of GDA is to determine whether the design meets our robust safety, security, safeguards and environmental protection standards in Great Britain.
"We are working together with the Environment Agency and NRW to ensure Rolls-Royce SMR Ltd understand and meet our regulatory expectations for its proposed reactor design.
“As nuclear regulators, we recognise that we are acting in the interests of the public and, as such, this period of scrutiny will be open, transparent and provide regular opportunities for meaningful engagement with interested parties throughout the GDA process.
"ONR is satisfied that Rolls-Royce SMR Ltd has adequate arrangements to support GDA. We have agreed an appropriate scope for GDA, for which the company has provided an appropriate submission schedule and a resourced organisation to deliver it.
“As regulators, we can now begin our technical assessment phase.
"Based on our work during Step 1, the generic Rolls-Royce SMR design can proceed to Step 2 of the GDA.”

Andrew Pynn, the Environment Agency’s Strategy and Policy Lead for the Rolls-Royce SMR GDA, said:

“We’re assessing the environmental acceptability of a new reactor design from Rolls-Royce SMR Ltd. Our team of specialist assessors will identify any issues or concerns we have with the design and will work with the company to make sure it understands our expectations to ensure the protection of communities and the environment.
“GDA is an enabling and efficient approach, helping to ensure that new nuclear power stations will meet high standards of safety, security, environmental protection and waste management.
“During Step 1 we’ve studied the company’s arrangements, plans and readiness for Step 2 and learnt more about the reactor design. In our Step 1 statement we’ve summarised what we have looked at and concluded that we can progress to Step 2 of GDA where we will begin our fundamental assessment.
“Public and stakeholder engagement is important to us. We’re encouraging people to get involved in the comments process, which begins today, by reviewing the information on the company’s website and providing your comments which are viewed by the regulators.
"We’ll be engaging continually with stakeholders and public and we will carry out a consultation as we step through the regulatory process."

Natural Resources Wales is also involved in the GDA process and will be leading on engagement with people in Wales.

Paul Gibson, the Radioactivity & Industry Policy Team Leader from Natural Resources Wales, said:

“We are working closely with the Environment Agency and the Office for Nuclear Regulation as part of the process to determine the acceptability of the Rolls-Royce SMR design which potentially could be sited in Wales.”

The GDA process focuses on the design of a generic nuclear power station and is not site-specific.

The process is systematic and contains a number of steps, with the assessment getting increasingly detailed as the process develops.

A Design Acceptance Confirmation (DAC) or Statement of Design Acceptability (SoDA), from ONR and the environmental regulators respectively, will only be issued at the end of Step 3 of the GDA if the design meets the high safety, security, safeguards, environmental protection and waste management standards expected by our regulatory frameworks.

These regulatory judgements do not guarantee the granting of a site licence or subsequent permissions issued under the conditions of a site licence for the construction of a power station based on the Rolls-Royce SMR design at a particular site in Great Britain.

For more information, please read ONR’s Step 1 statement and full step one summary report, and the environmental regulators, Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales, joint End of Step 1 statement.