New Projects, News, Nuclear, O&M, Reactors

NRC moves review of NuScale’s smaller nuclear reactor to final phases

NuScale Power has clearly entered the second half of its quest to get federal approval for its small modular nuclear reactor (SMR) expected to be in service sometime in the next decade.

Portland, Ore.-based NuScale announced that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has completed the fourth phase of review for the SMR’s design certification application. The review now goes in phases 5 and 6, which could be complete by late 2020 and then entered into rulemaking, according to the NRC website.

The company says that its technology–meant to lower the cost and footprint of nuclear power projects–is the only SMR to undergo design certification review by the NRC. NuScale has worked with the Department of Energy and several companies.

“The completion of Phase 4 of the NRC’s design review certification process is an unprecedented step forward for our company and for the advanced nuclear industry overall,” said NuScale Chairman and CEO John Hopkins in a statement. “We appreciate the tremendous effort the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has dedicated to its thorough and rigorous review of our groundbreaking technology thus far.

“We are thrilled to be entering into the final stages of the NRC’s review process and are looking forward to delivering America’s first small modular nuclear reactor.”

The NRC review began in 2018. NuScale’s SMR design focuses on several key distinctions from past reactor design: it is 65 feet tall by nine feet in diameter and cooled by a water-filled pool built below grade and using the principles of buoyancy-driven natural circulation instead of pumps.

The reactor would only use 1/20th of the fuel compared to a large reactor, theoretically limiting damage in the case of an event. NuScale also uses its proprietary digital instrumentation and controls.

Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems is planning to use NuScale’s technologies in building a 12-module SMR plant in Idaho. The UAMPS facility is expected to be operational by the mid-2020s, close to the same time that Georgia Power hopes to finally complete its $25 billion Vogtle units 3 and 4 nuclear reactor expansion.

Several larger partners, such as Doosan Heavy Industries and Sargent and Lundy, have signed preliminary deals with NuScale to offer technical expertise and manufacture various components of the reactor. DHI and S&L also provided cash investments in the company.

Still, Phases 5 and 6 of the NRC review remain. Phase 5 entails a review by the NRC’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS). The ACRS is an independent advisor to the NRC that reviews and reports on safety studies and reactor facility license and license renewal applications.

“We appreciate the NRC’s efforts to streamline Phase 5, and we expect that Phase 5 will be completed on or ahead of the original schedule in June 2020,” said NuScale Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Tom Bergman. “Phase 6 is preparation of the Final SER, which will incorporate confirmatory items from the Phase 4 advanced SER, and comments raised by ACRS in Phase 5.”

Nuclear power generation emits no carbon dioxide and is believed by several industry experts, including former Obama-era Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and several MIT researchers, to be needed in achieving aggressive carbon-reduction goals.

U.S. nuclear generation accounts for about 19 percent of the nation’s electricity mix. It represents 55 percent of the current carbon-free electricity currently generated in the U.S., according to the Nuclear Energy Institute.

(Rod Walton is content director for Power Engineering and POWERGEN International. He can be reached at [email protected] and 918-831-9177).

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Nuclear power remains a crucial part of the global power generation mix and will be part of the content offered at POWERGEN next December in Orlando. Contact Rod Walton with presentation ideas or look for the Call for Abstracts soon!