- It will take the regulatory agency more than three years to evaluate the 12,000 pages of information submitted in electronic form by the company on 12/31/16.
- Financial support for design and licensing costs was provided, in part, by the U.S. Department of Energy in a cost sharing agreement with NuScale.
In a major step toward the deployment of the next generation of advanced nuclear technology, NuScale Power asked the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on December 31st, 2016 to approve the company’s 50 MW small modular reactor (SMR) commercial power plant design.
This is the first-ever SMR DCA to be submitted to the NRC and marks a significant milestone for NuScale and the power generation industry. (NRC web page about the NuScale application) NuScale has been working on its SMR design for more than ten years, with initial development and testing at Oregon State University.
NuScale’s application consisted of nearly 12,000 pages of technical information. 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. (See NuScale roadmap below)
“We reached this tremendous milestone through the efforts of more than 800 people over eight years,” said NuScale COO and CNO Dale Atkinson. (Video of complete press event.)
“We have documented, in extensive detail, the design conceived by Dr. Jose Reyes more than a decade ago. We are confident that we have submitted a comprehensive and quality application, and we look forward to working with the NRC during its review.”
“It’s clearly a big challenge since there is 40 months more of work to be done,” Mike McGough, NuScale’s chief commercial officer, told a wire service.
“We have worked very hard for pre-engagement with the NRC since 2008,” he said.
“Since that time, we have provided rigorous pieces of the application for review. In September, we had a readiness assessment review that involved 84 NRC personal reviewing our application. We’ve tried to mitigate that uncertainty.”
The first commercial 12-module NuScale power plant is planned to be built on the site of the Idaho National Laboratory (INL). The Department of Energy has issued a site use permit to UAMPS for construction of the reactor at a site at the INL federal facility located about 50 miles west of Idaho Falls, ID.
As a matter of historical coincidence, the SMR site (Google map) is located near the site of EBR-I which is the first nuclear reactor to generate electricity for commercial use. The 65th anniversary of that event was celebrated in December 2016.
The SMR supplied by NuScale will be owned by the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) and operated by an experienced nuclear operator, Energy Northwest.
UAMPS CEO Doug Hunter stated, “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.”
NuScale’s kick-off press conference was attended by NEI CEO Maria Korsnick. She said in her remarks that it was an “historic moment of innovation in the electric sector” in a continuum of developments and innovation in nuclear technology.
“The journey starts with preservation of America’s existing nuclear power plants, including second licence renewal to allow today’s plants to operate beyond 60 years. It proceeds through construction of more large light water reactors, like the four being built in Georgia and South Carolina,” she said.
“It further includes deployment of small modular light water reactors in the mid-2020s. And finally, development, demonstration and deployment of advanced nonlight-water reactors.”
Steve Kuczynski, CEO of Southern Nuclear and Chairman of the Nuclear Energy Institute’s New Plant Advisory Committee, said;
“At Southern Company, we are building the first new-generation nuclear plants in the United States. We are committed to nuclear energy and we want to have NuScale SMR’s as an option. We have worked with them for many years and look forward to the NRC certification.”
NuScale’s SMR Technology
The 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-electric, and up to 12 modules can be “ganged” in a single power plant installation of 600 MW.
At the heart of the technology is the NuScale Power Module, an integral reactor vessel surrounded by a high pressure steel containment, which when coupled to its power generation equipment can produce 50 MW of electricity. (Large image of reactor profile as a PDF file) See also the NuScale web page for technical publications.)
A NuScale SMR plant can house up to 12 of these modules for a total facility output of 600 MW (gross). NuScale said the scalability afforded by the modular design allows customers to incrementally increase facility output to match demand.
NuScale said its design offers the benefits of carbon-free power and reduces the financial commitments associated with gigawatt-size nuclear facilities. NuScale also said its technology is suited to supply energy for district heating, desalination, and process heat applications.
Unique Safety Characteristics of NuScale’s SMR
In its report on the submission of NuScale’s application to the NRC, World Nuclear News emphasized that the NuScale design also has unique safety characteristics: under abnormal conditions, the reactor can shut itself down and cool itself for indefinite periods without the need for human intervention, water addition or external electricity supplies.
Scott Burnell, public affairs officer at the NRC, said NuScale’s application is the first to propose a nuclear power plant designed with several small reactors instead of one large one.
“The company has discussed this approach with us since 2008, using much the same ‘pre-application’ process followed by makers of traditional large reactors. These talks helped both the NRC and NuScale understand where the design might need additional supporting information or alternative approaches to NRC policies. For instance, NuScale examined how its design could best meet the NRC’s requirements for staff in the control room,” Burnell said.
The NRC used information from NuScale in developing a design-specific review standard. This ensures the agency’s technical staff has specific guidance on the requirements NuScale must meet to get the novel small modular design approved.
The standard covers topics such as instrumentation and controls, cooling the reactor core in an emergency, and the materials used for the reactor vessel and steam generator. The NRC published the draft review standard in July 2015 and after public comment, issued the final review standard in August 2016.
Financial Support for NuScale
In 2011, the global engineering, procurement and construction firm Fluor Corp became the majority investor in NuScale. As the sole winner of the second round of the DOE’s competitively-bid cost-sharing program for SMR technology development, NuScale is the only SMR developer currently receiving DOE financial support.
“Without the leadership, vision and support of the U.S. DOE, our technology design, development, testing and license application could not have proceeded to this point,” said Dr. Reyes. Conservative estimates predict approximately 55-75 GW of global electricity will come from SMRs by 2035, equivalent to over 1,000 NuScale Power Modules.
TVA Submits Early Site Permit
for SMR at Clinch River, TN, Site
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has accepted for review the Early Site Permit application for the Clinch River site near Oak Ridge, Tenn. The Tennessee Valley Authority submitted the initial data for the application in May 2016, and provided follow-up information through the remainder of the year.
The Early Site Permit process determines whether a site is suitable for future construction and operation of a nuclear power plant. The NRC held meetings in Oak Ridge in April 2016 to explain the review process to the surrounding community.
TVA is seeking resolution of safety and environmental issues related to a potential small modular reactor at the site, approximately five miles southwest of Oak Ridge. Accepting the application for review, or “docketing” the application, does not indicate whether the Commission will approve or reject the request. The NRC has established docket number 52-047 for this application.
“Accepting the application for review, or docketing the application, does not indicate whether the Commission will approve or reject the request,” NRC spokesman Scott Burwell said
The Times Free Press reported that the NRC has yet to certify any of the proposed new small modular reactor plant designs, but TVA’s initial permit application would clear the way for the site to be approved and ready if such plants are ultimately developed and TVA decides to pursue the new technology.
“We believe that small modular reactors offer a great potential of taking all of the benefits of nuclear power in terms of producing 24-7, carbon-free energy and moving it on to a new generation of plant design,” TVA spokesman Jim Hopson said in an interview with the Times Free Press.
“No decisions have been made yet whether we will actually deploy this technology, but we want to work with the Department of Energy to pursue the potential of SMRs (small modular reactors) and to make sure this site is ready if we decide to move ahead.”
TVA referenced four separate SMR designs in its application but did not specify a preference for any of them. At one time TVA had an agreement with B&W to share design and licensing costs costs for the firm’s mPower 108 MW SMR. However, that agreement ended in 2014.