$500m bet pays off for NuScale as designs approved for small modular reactor

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has issued a final safety evaluation report (FSER) for NuScale’s small modular reactor (SMR) after more than three years of investigation.

The decision marks the end of the technical review of the company’s design, and confirms its lead in the US race to develop a commercial SMR.

John Hopkins, NuScale’s chairman and chief executive, said the decision was a milestone for the entire US nuclear sector: "The approval of NuScale’s design is an incredible accomplishment and we would like to extend our deepest thanks to the NRC for their comprehensive review, to the Department of Energy for its continued commitment to our successful private-public partnership to bring the country’s first SMR to market."

NuScale, which has the backing of US engineer Fluor, said it spent over $500m and more than 2 million working hours to develop the information needed to prepare its DCA application. The company also submitted 14 topical reports in addition to more than 12,000 pages for its application and 2 million pages of supporting information.

The company said the review process demonstrated the simplicity of NuScale’s design, illustrated by the fact that the NRC issued "far fewer" requests for additional information compared with other design certification applications.

NuScale’s design is for a 50MW integral pressurised-water reactor, based on an original developed at Oregon State University in the early 2000s. It is a natural circulation light water reactor with the reactor core and helical coil steam generators located in a common reactor vessel in a cylindrical steel containment.

The next step for NuScale is to obtain full certification from the regulator. This will allow a utility to reference the design when applying to build and operate a nuclear power plant anywhere in the US.

The company’s first project is likely to be with Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, which is planning to develop a 720MW plant at the Idaho National Laboratory that uses a number of SMRs.

See further reading for the background to NuScale’s development, and the international race to bring an SMR to market.

Image: NuScale’s rendering of a possible SMR reactor site

Further reading:

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