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US small modular nuclear reactor has achieved design certification from regulator

Artist’s impression of a six-module VOYGR SMR power plant

Artist’s impression of a six-module VOYGR SMR power plant

Photo by NuScale Power

24th January 2023

By: Rebecca Campbell

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

     

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The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has issued its so-called ‘Final Rule’ for the NuScale Power (NuScale) small modular nuclear reactor (SMR), completing the certification process for design. This made the NuScale SMR the first reactor in its category to be certified by the NRC. Although termed a ‘rule’, the NRC determination was actually a document some 55 A4 pages in length.

This meant that, when the company applied for a licence to build and operate an nuclear power plant (NPP) employing its SMR, the design of the SMR itself would not be an issue. NuScale would only need to meet the licensing requirements for the specific site chosen for the NPP.

This completed a process that started in 2018, when the NRC accepted NuScale’s application for design certification. The NRC subsequently released its final technical review in August 2020 and its Commission voted to certify the design in July last year.

NuScale’s original concept for an SMR NPP had involved up to 12 50 MWe SMR ‘power modules’, but it had more recently increased the capacity of each SMR to 77 MWe, and reconfigured its NPP concept to having six of these more powerful power modules. The company submitted an application for approval of this six-SMR NPP design to the NRC earlier this month.

In December 2021, the company adopted the name VOYGR for its SMR NPP. Design and development of the SMR has been assisted by funding from the US Department of Energy (DoE). Since 2014, the DoE has spent more than $600-million on supporting SMR concepts and developments by a number of US companies, including NuScale.

“The DoE has been an invaluable partner with a shared common goal – to establish an innovative and reliable carbon-free source of energy here in the US,” highlighted NuScale president and CEO John Hopkins. “We look forward to continuing our partnership and working with the DoE to bring the UAMPS [Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems] carbon-free power project to completion.”

UAMPS would be the first application of the NuScale SMR. It would see the construction of a six-module VOYGR NPP at the Idaho National Laboratory. The UAMPS collaboration planned to submit its licence application to the NRC in the first quarter of next year, with the commissioning of the first SMR in 2029, followed by full plant operation in 2030.

NuScale SMRs are basically small, pressurised water reactors. Each one of the 77 MWe modules has a height of 77 ft (almost 23.5 m) and a diameter of 15 ft (nearly 4.6 m).

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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