Mr Lévy, who took part yesterday in a virtual discussion with the director-general of the International Energy Agency Fatih Birol, said that France is working on a basic SMR design together with “other French partners” with the aim of having a “French option in the emerging world of SMRs”.
However, he said that “it is too early” for anyone to say if several SMRs could bring more value, more flexibility, less life-time costs, and easier maintenance in order to compete with large-scale nuclear reactors.
Large-scale nuclear is a mature industry, while SMRs are an emerging business, he said, and added that “one wants to test the concept” before definitely stating SMRs can be competitive.
Mr Lévy said: “It [SMR technology] is promising, but right now all existing SMR projects are financed by governments; they are not financed by market forces. This is not a market-driven business; this is a government-funded business.”
“But maybe in five, 10 or 15 years' time, people will say we do have the knowledge of the ability of SMRs to compete with large-scale reactors”, he said.
In Septemner 2019, France’s Atomic and Alternative Energies Commission (CEA) announced a SMR project called “Nuward”, a joint venture with EDF, the Paris-based Naval group and reactor design and maintenance company TechnicAtome, which is based at the CEA nuclear site in Cadarache, southern France.
CEA said the planned SMR plant will be a PWR-based solution in the 300-400 MW range. It said the project will benefit from more than 50 years of experience in France of PWR design, development, construction and more than 2,000 reactor years of PWR operating experience.
At the time, Mr Lévy said the project is a promising beginning of a safe and competitive nuclear design meant to broaden the range of solutions for low-carbon baseload energy offered by the French nuclear industry.