NuScale files first-ever small modular reactor certification application at NRC

Marking a significant milestone for small modular reactor (SMR) technology, NuScale Power submitted its design application on Jan. 12 to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to approve the company's small modular reactor commercial power plant design.

NuScale noted that this is the first-ever SMR design certification application to be submitted to the NRC.

NuScale's application consists of nearly 12,000 pages of technical information and the application delivery was commemorated on Jan. 12 at NRC headquarters in Rockville, Md.

The NRC is expected to take the next two months to determine if any additional information is required prior to commencing their review. Thereafter, the NRC has targeted completing the certification process within 40 months.

The first commercial 12-module NuScale power plant is planned to be built on the site of the Idaho National Laboratory.

Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems in 2016 took a step forward in the development of its Carbon Free Power Project by identifying a preferred site within the boundary of the Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory site near Idaho Falls, Idaho. The site selection process was conducted in collaboration with the Department of Energy.

The Utah public power agency, which provides electricity at wholesale to more than 40 community-owned electric utilities in the Intermountain West, previously noted that it is studying the feasibility of deploying up to 12 small modular reactors at the Idaho site. One of its partners on the project is NuScale Power.

"We are delighted that our friends at NuScale have completed this step, which is key to our project licensing and our target commercial operation date of 2026 for the UAMPS Carbon Free Power Project," said UAMPS CEO Doug Hunter in a Jan. 12 news release issued by NuScale. Another public power entity, Energy Northwest, will operate the SMR plant.

SMRs comprise just one of the three elements of the Carbon Free Power Project, Hunter explained in an interview with the American Public Power Association in 2015. Distributed generation and energy efficiency are the other key components, he said.

In the interview, Hunter also discussed the joint action agency's feasibility studies for a SMR plant as part of the Carbon Free Power Project, and Mark Reddemann, CEO of Energy Northwest, explained how Energy Northwest is solidly positioned to operate a SMR plant for UAMPS.

SMR filing announced at press conference

NuScale announced the filing at a Washington, D.C., press conference, which was attended by several members of Congress, Lynn Orr, the DOE's undersecretary for science and energy, and Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) President and CEO Maria Korsnick.

"On behalf of the entire nuclear energy industry I want to congratulate the NuScale team for its pioneering work," Korsnick said in a Jan. 12 NEI news release. "NuScale is a first mover in an exciting new technological frontier. We want more such innovation to follow."

NEI noted that NuScale SMR consists of integrated pressurized water reactor modules, designed on the light water reactor technology that has safely operated worldwide for the past 70 years. Each module's generating capacity is 50 megawatts, and up to 12 modules can be grouped in a single power plant installation of 600 MW.

NEI also said that SMRs have several advantages over their larger cousins. "A power plant's capacity can be increased in stages depending on electricity demand. Shorter construction timeframes — about 36 months for each module — can make it easier for a smaller utility to raise capital and allow quicker returns on investment while the rest of the plant is under construction. In addition, each module can be built at an off-site factory and shipped to the plant site via truck, train or barge," the nuclear power association said.

In addition, the NuScale design has unique safety characteristics, NEI said.

DOE Under Secretary Orr said NuScale's filing is "a big step along the way toward a future we very much want to support." A diversified portfolio of clean power sources must include nuclear energy, he said.