1st small modular nuclear reactor certified for use in the United States

The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission has certified the design of what will be the first small modular nuclear reactor in the United States.

The rule that certifies the design was published Thursday in the Federal Register. This means that companies looking to build and operate a nuclear power plant can choose the 50-megawatt Advanced Small Modular Light Water Nuclear Reactor design by Oregon-based NuScale Power and apply for a license from the NRC. .

It is the final decision that the design is acceptable for use, so it cannot be challenged legally during the licensing process when someone applies to build and operate a nuclear power plant, the NRC spokesperson Scott Burnell. The rule comes into effect at the end of February.

The US Department of Energy said the newly approved design “equipped the nation with a clean new energy source to help reduce” emissions of greenhouse gases that are warming the planet.

It is the seventh model of nuclear reactor authorized for use in the United States. The rest is destined for large traditional light water reactors.

Diane Hughes, NuScale’s vice president of marketing and communications, said the design certification is a historic step toward a clean energy future and makes the company’s VOYGR power plant a near-term deployable solution for customers. The first small modular reactor design application package included more than 2 million pages of supporting documents, Hughes added.

However, David Schlissel of the Ohio Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis expressed concerns about the costs. Schlissel, who has studied the history of the nuclear power industry and the finances of the NuScale project, expects them to continue to rise, which could limit the number of NuScale reactors built. He said he thought they weren’t price competitive with renewables and battery storage.

Hughes said that from wind and solar to hydrogen and nuclear, energy projects have seen cost increases due to changing financial market dynamics, interest rate hikes and inflationary pressures on the sector’s supply chain that have not been seen for decades. NuScale’s VOYGR power plant remains a competitive source of reliable, affordable and carbon-free energy, she added.

For many, nuclear appears as an answer as states and countries move away from coal, oil and natural gas to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avoid the worst effects of global warming.

About 40 serious concepts are being developed for the next generation of advanced nuclear reactors around the world. China was the first to connect a next-generation reactor to its grid to produce around 200 megawatts of electricity. A gas-cooled high-temperature reactor began operating in 2021.

The U.S. Department of Energy said it has provided more than $600 million since 2014 to support the design, licensing, and deployment of NuScale’s VOYGR small modular reactor power plant and other power plant concepts. small domestic reactors. The department is working with Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems to demonstrate a six-module NuScale VOYGR plant at the Idaho National Laboratory. The first module should be operational by 2029.

NuScale has signed 19 agreements in the United States and around the world to deploy its small reactor technology. Deputy Secretary for Nuclear Energy Kathryn Huff said small modular reactors are no longer an abstract concept.

“They are real and they are ready to deploy thanks to the hard work of NuScale, the academic community, our national labs, our industry partners and the NRC,” Huff said in a statement. “This is innovation at its best and we’re just getting started here in the United States”

NuScale has also applied to NRC for approval of a larger design, at 77 megawatts per module, and the agency is verifying the completeness of the application before beginning a full review, Burnell said.

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