Wylfa proposal would see nuclear and wind combine to produce power and hydrogen – but US reactor design would have to be licensed first

So-called ‘hybrid’ clean energy company Shearwater Energy has announced is developing a combined project incorporating wind generation, a small modular nuclear reactor and hydrogen production at the Wylfa site in North Wales.

The project would provide 3GWe of power, which would partly be used to produce 3kt of hydrogen per year for the UK’s transport sector. Shearwater said it has submitted an outline proposal to the British government and the devolved governments of Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Shearwater said it would use NuScale Power’s SMR technology as the basis of the site. The two companies have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to generally explore opportunities for combining nuclear generation, offshore wind energy and hydrogen production at sites in the UK. Wylfa is the flagship site.

NuScale will also conduct project-specific engineering, planning, and licensing activities for its SMR technology.

“Combining low-carbon generating technologies enables us to achieve similar performance characteristics to large thermal plants without the high cost, long construction time and environmental legacy”, explained Simon Forster, chief executive of Shearwater.

Forster said power generation at Wylfa “could begin as early as 2027.” However, although the NuScale design  received design approval from the US regulator last year, and it expects to break ground on its first project, in Idaho, in 2023, it has yet to be submitted to the UK’s Office for Nuclear Regulation. Up to now the generic design approval (GDA) process has taken over five years for each design.

Development consent for the site is a separate process and although it has reached an advanced stage for a ABWR design at Wylfa, a change of reactor type would represent major revision.