New Projects, Nuclear, Policy & Regulation, Reactors

NuScale reactor simulators going to three U.S. universities

Small modular reactor research spinoff NuScale Power will have three of its reactor plant simulators installed at three U.S. universities.

The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded three grants to support installation of the NuScale reactors at Oregon State University, Texas A&M at College Station and the University of Idaho.

When completed, the simulator facilities will be used for research, education, K-12 outreach and public advocacy regarding nuclear power and small modular reactor (SMR) technology.

“We are very grateful to our university partners for their collaboration and eagerness to participate in this project, and to the Department of Energy for its continued support of NuScale’s groundbreaking work in the advanced nuclear industry,” said John Hopkins, chairman and CEO of NuScale Power. “These simulator facilities will create new research opportunities and help ensure that we educate future generations about the important role nuclear power and SMR technology will play in attaining a safe, clean and secure energy future for our country.”

Portland, Oregon-based NuScale’s reactor simulator is a virtual nuclear power plant control room that provides U.S. universities and national laboratories with the ability to observe nuclear plant behavior from the control room. These simulators, based on NuScale’s simulator technology and computer models, will include a simulator interface that accepts input from operators in a virtual control room and displays parameters simulating the plant response.

Lead collaborators from each of the partner universities include Qiao Wu, Ph.D. (Oregon State University), Yassin Hassan, Ph.D. (Texas A&M University) and Richard Christensen, Ph.D. (University of Idaho).

“The installation of these three simulators will provide remarkable opportunities for students, researchers and operators to better understand SMR technology,” said NuScale Innovation Manager Derick Botha, who developed the project proposal on behalf of the company in collaboration with the university leads. “We are thrilled that DOE has given this endeavor such a strong endorsement.” After, deployment at each university, NuScale will provide technical support and further model development to support research.

NuScale’s small modular reactor design is undergoing certification review by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The NRC is scheduled to complete its review by September 2020.

The nuclear power industry is under duress due to higher costs than competitor fuel resources such as natural gas, solar and wind. Currently less than 100 units supply close to 20 percent of the U.S. electricity generation mix, but only one new reactor project, the Vogtle Units 3 and 4 work in Georgia, is under active construction.

Many industry supporters believe the future of nuclear energy is in smaller reactor footprints, lessening costs and construction time.

NuScale was created out of research originally funded by the DOE in the early 2000s.