French state-owned utility EDF is planning to make a strategic shift in the development of its small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs), Reuters has reported.

The company will now incorporate existing technologies into its SMR design, moving away from its initial approach of developing proprietary innovations.

EDF’s move comes after a comprehensive four-year design phase and discussions with potential clients.

The impact of the redesign on the project’s budget and timeline remains unclear.

The company has not disclosed whether this change will affect the planned market readiness of its SMRs, previously set for the 2030s.

The move reflects the company’s response to prospective clients’ needs for cost certainty and adherence to delivery schedules.

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A source from Nuward, EDF’s subsidiary responsible for the SMR design, told the news agency that the reassessment was influenced by conversations with potential buyers such as Vattenfall, CEZ and Fortum.

These companies are considering investments in both third-generation full-size nuclear plants and emerging small-scale reactors.

They have expressed a preference for a product grounded in established technologies to ensure competitive electricity costs, estimated between €70 and €100 per megawatt hour.

In an emailed statement to Reuters, EDF confirmed that Nuward had reached the basic design phase, which allowed for a detailed examination of the complete plant model.

It was at this juncture that EDF opted to “evolve the design” of its SMRs.

These reactors have been described as a cost-effective and expedited alternative to traditional large-scale nuclear plants, which have longer construction periods.

SMRs are smaller-sized nuclear reactors able to replace coal-fired power stations and supply electricity to small industrial sites or remote areas.

EDF’s revised plan for the SMR design, which will detail the chosen technologies, is expected to be unveiled later in 2024.

The development follows reports from the French investigative news outlet L’Informé, which cited company sources claiming that EDF’s internal SMR design faced engineering challenges.

To prevent potential delays and budget overruns, EDF may need to collaborate with other companies or rely on readily available technologies.