Areva of France and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan announced that their newly-created joint venture will be known as Atmea. The joint venture will develop an "advanced Generation-III" nuclear power reactor, the Atmea 1.I found this announcement fascinating for three reasons. First, until now, the strategy of reactor suppliers has been to devote all available resources to developing and licensing a single flagship design. The Atmea joint venture indicates that the market for new reactors has matured to the point that vendors now see a need to provide multiple designs to meet the needs of different customers.
... the Atmea joint venture will develop, market, license and sell an 1100 MWe pressurized water reactor (PWR), which will combine technologies of both companies. The reactor would be marketed at emerging countries wishing to begin nuclear power programs, as well as established markets such as the USA and Europe.
Second, the size of the Atmea 1 indicates that it is intended to for head-to-head competition with Westinghouse's AP-1000. That means that Atmea sees a market that is big enough for two suppliers, or perhaps that the needs of utilities have evolved enough that a new design for a medium-sized reactor is needed.
Third, design certification for the Atmea 1 will come years after the certification of the EPR, AP-1000, ABWR, and ESBWR. That suggests that there is significant interest by utilities in a second wave of new plants, beyond the early site permits we have heard about to date.
It will be interesting to see how the Atmea 1 stacks up against the AP-1000 -- not only in features, but eventually in market share as well.