TVA site approved for potential small modular reactors

The Tennessee Valley Authority on Dec. 17 said that it became the first utility in the nation to successfully obtain approval for an early site permit from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to potentially construct and operate small modular reactors.

The 20-year permit, referred to as an Early Site Permit, approves the 935-acre Clinch River site near Oak Ridge, Tenn. for a nuclear facility that can produce up to 800 megawatts.

 “The early site permit is a significant step in the potential development of small modular reactor technology,” said Dan Stout, director, nuclear technology innovation at TVA. “Although we have no plans to build at this time, this permit will give TVA flexible options to prepare for future energy needs.”

TVA noted that SMRs are a next-generation nuclear technology with potential for improved safety and increased flexibility. Less than one-third the size of a conventional reactor, SMR designs offer more standardization, reduced construction times and the ability to deploy in smaller increments.

TVA applied for an early site permit in 2016, and the NRC began formally reviewing the 8,000-page application in January 2017. The application addressed the site safety, environmental and emergency preparedness requirements to determine approval of the site.

TVA will have up to 20 years, with a possibility of an extension, to make a decision to pursue the construction of small modular reactors. Another NRC application is required to build and operate this kind of facility.

“We’ve been working with the Department of Energy to partner on this innovative nuclear technology,” Stout said.

“The decision to build will be based on energy needs and economic factors – we want to make the best decision for the people of the Valley,” said TVA Chief Nuclear Officer Tim Rausch.

“SMRs are more attractive where load growth is slow, and they provide a more affordable option than the higher up-front capital costs associated with larger nuclear facilities,” said Stout.

NuScale’s SMR design clears Phase 4 of NRC review process

In other recent SMR news, NuScale Power on Dec. 12 said that the NRC completed the fourth phase of review of the design certification application (DCA) for the company’s SMR.

The entire review of NuScale’s SMR design is now in Phases 5 and 6. 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.

Phase 6 is preparation of the final safety evaluation report, which will incorporate confirmatory items from the Phase 4 advanced SER, and comments raised by ACRS in Phase 5.

As NuScale’s first customer, the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems is planning a 12-module SMR plant in Idaho slated for operation by the mid-2020s based on the NRC’s certified design.