“France is once again a country which assumes its role as leader in civil nuclear power”, underlines the entourage of Agnès Pannier Runacher, while the Minister of Energy Transition made public this Monday evening the names of the six new winners of the call for “innovative nuclear reactors” projects, on the eve of the opening of the World Nuclear Exhibition which is being held on November 28, 29 and 30 in Paris. This call for projects was launched as part of the France 2030 plan, which has been allocated a total of 77.2 million in financial subsidies. Added to this is 18.9 million for technical support from the CEA (Atomic Energy Commission). The amounts released vary depending on the structure of the company and the maturity of the projects. A total of one billion euros will be devoted to SMRs.
According to our information, 5.2 million euros were allocated to Calogena, a company created by the family industrial group Gorgé. “Calogena is the only French project, with EDF's Nuward, to be carried out by a group. We therefore provide a larger share of equity than a start-up,” explains Raphaël Gorgé, CEO of the Gorgé group. With its SMR, it targets the district heating market, providing carbon-free heat, between 70 and 110 degrees. The company has already started to expand its team, notably with the hiring of its technical director, Xavier Bravo, former advisor to the general director of Iter. “Our objective is to submit a first safety file to the ASN (Nuclear Safety Authority, Editor's note) as quickly as possible. We are targeting the second half of 2024,” adds Raphaël Gorgé, who sees himself at the head of this new sector. He estimates that the district heating market alone represents dozens of SMRs. To save time, it opted for the adaptation of mature technologies (third generation reactors, low pressure and low temperature) and already proven, a means of more quickly lifting the reserves linked to the use of nuclear power.
A choice also made by another winner of the call for projects, Jimmy Energy, whose GTA reactor (atomic thermal generator) produces heat, this time intended for industry. It is allocated 32 million euros as part of the call for tenders. “This is a very positive signal towards our partners. This shows that our project is part of state policy, that we have the capacity to industrialize it,” underlines Antoine Guyot, co-founder and CEO of Jimmy, specifying that he “already has its first industrial clients,” without yet naming them. The production of carbon-free heat is proving to be a promising market even though certain manufacturing processes cannot do without it. In this case, the heat from the SMR would replace that produced by fossil fuels, in particular natural gas.
Blue Capsule, another winner, also relies on the use of two mature technologies. Other teams have opted for disruptive technologies, like Otrera, founded by a team of former CEA employees, who chose to develop a system with two fast neutron reactors. A process similar to that used by Hexana. Finally, Renaissance Fusion is, to date, the only project selected in the field of nuclear fusion and not fission. A technology whose main advantage is that it does not generate final waste. These names are added to those of the first promotion of the plan. The first three winners, Nuward, Newcleo and Naarea, were selected this spring. A total of fifteen files were submitted. Others are therefore still under study, “no technology is ruled out” a priori.