Light-water cooled Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) are a potential game-changing technology for energy supply. The potential benefits of SMRs are however conditional on solving the key standardisation and construction issues that have troubled large reactor (LR) projects, which have in turn led to high build costs and long project durations.

Initiatives to determine the build schedule of SMRs are hindered by a lack of SMR construction experience and related data. The methodology used in this paper, to deal with the lack of SMR-specific data, draws conclusions about SMRs based on data from actual large pressurised water reactor (PWR) construction experience.

It is expected that SMR build schedules can be greatly reduced because of the smaller physical size of structures, fewer components, and other size-related features. However, the construction work space will be more constrained, which could negatively impact build durations. As a result, simple geometric scaling and reduction arguments cannot necessarily be applied to SMR schedules. This paper defines the key areas in which SMR construction differs from LRs, such as smaller geometries as well as modularised and standardised build processes, and describes how these differences might be expected to impact build duration quantitatively.

The model developed in this paper presents an approach to determining SMR build schedule durations for a range of reactor sizes. It starts with an LR build schedule based on real data from the UK’s only PWR, Sizewell B. The available data are used to establish a reference point for a non-modular, stick-built SMR schedule. This scheduling approach assumes that, for each major element, part of the time spent on fabrication and installation tasks will vary with reactor size while the remaining fraction will remain constant regardless of reactor size (e.g. due to quality assurance and commissioning tasks). The accuracy of the model generated here is assessed against available construction data and models from a range of actual reactor build projects.

The objective of this work is to consider how modularisation can reduce build schedule of SMRs of varying size, by employing modular design and construction principles to both remove tasks that are of long duration from the critical path and to improve construction productivity. Mechanisms by which modularisation reduces build schedule are investigated. Build reduction scenarios are presented based on analysis and subsequent modularisation of the SMR critical path and are compared with other related analyses.

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