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Nuscale small modular reactor plant design
Artist rendition of NuScale Power nuclear power plant. 
NuScale Power

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) recently issued its final safety evaluation report on NuScale Power’s small modular reactor (SMR) design. This accomplishment is the first of its kind for a SMR and puts NuScale on track to receive a full design certification from the regulator by August 2021.

The milestone is the direct result of more than $400 million in funding by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) since 2014 to accelerate the development and deployment of SMRs.

A Historic Review Process

The NRC accepted NuScale’s SMR design certification application in March 2017. The 12,000-page application took less than 42 months to review and included more than 2 million pages of additional documents for regulatory audits.

The final safety evaluation report issued by the NRC is the first of its kind for a SMR and represents the technical review and NRC staff’s approval of the NuScale SMR design.

The NuScale Power Module is an advanced light-water small modular reactor capable of generating 60 megawatts of electricity. Each power plant can house up to 12 modules, which will be factory-built and about a third of the size of a large-scale reactor. Its unique design allows the reactor to passively cool itself without any need for additional water, power or even operator action.

This key safety feature could lead to a reduction in the emergency planning zone to the site boundary—significantly reducing the footprint of the power plant.

Upon receiving full certification, utilities will be able to reference the design when applying for a combined license to build and operate the new reactors in the United States.

DOE is supporting the siting of the nation’s first 12-module power plant at Idaho National Laboratory. Operation is expected to begin in 2029.

“This is what successful private-public partnerships looks like,” said Dr. Rita Baranwal, the Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy. “DOE is proud to support the licensing and development of NuScale’s Power Module and other SMR technologies that have the potential to bring clean and reliable power to areas never thought possible by nuclear reactors in the U.S., and soon the world.”

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Supporting SMR Development

DOE’s support for the NuScale Power module can be traced back to the inception of its design at Oregon State University back in 2000.

Since then, DOE has provided more than $400 million to support the design, licensing and siting of the NuScale Power Module as well as initial design efforts for other domestic SMR designs.

Through the Carbon Free Power Project, DOE is working with Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) and its members to showcase this first-of-a-kind technology.

What’s Next?

The NRC is preparing a rulemaking to certify the NuScale SMR design. Once certified, the SMR will join six other light water reactor designs cleared by the NRC. The regulator is also reviewing the nation’s first boiling water SMR design developed by GE-Hitachi.

Upon reaching a decision to move forward with the Carbon Free Power Project, UAMPS and its members will continue characterizing its preferred site and will initiate the development of a Combined License Application for review by the NRC.

In addition to the Carbon Free Power Project, NuScale has signed agreements with entities in Canada, Romania, the Czech Republic, and Jordan to build future plants.

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