NRC gives safety nod to NuScale’s small nuclear reactor design

NuScale Power’s design for a next-generation small modular reactor has gained the final safety approval of federal nuclear oversight.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued the final safety evaluation for NuScale’s SMR design. The next phase for NRC is preparing rulemaking to certify the design.

U.S.-based NuScale, which applied NRC approval in 2016, has designed a reactor plant which uses convection and gravity in its operating systems. The 12 modules, each producing 50 MW, would be submerged in a safety-related pool built below ground level.

“The NRC concludes the design’s passive features will ensure the nuclear power plant would shut down safely and remain safe under emergency conditions, if necessary,” the NRC release stated.

Many in the nuclear power industry, seeing that large conventional reactor plants are not competing with cheaper resources such as gas and renewables, believe that the future will be in smaller, advanced reactor facilities and technologies. Nuclear power does not emit carbon, so they content that it will be necessary to provide baseload power in achieving a net-zero or lower carbon future.

NuScale has indicated it will apply in 2022 for a standard design approval of a 60-MW module version of the design, which will require additional NRC review. Full certification, if granted by the Commission following the staff’s recommendation, allows a utility to reference the design when applying for a combined license to build and operate a nuclear power plant.

The NRC has certified six other designs: the Advanced Boiling-Water Reactor, System 80+, AP600, AP1000, the Economic Simplified Boiling-Water Reactor and the APR1400.

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