Legal & Regulatory

NRC Gives Final Approval to NuScale's SMR Design

NuScale Power said the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has completed its Phase 6 review of the Design Certification Application (DCA) of the company’s small modular nuclear reactor (SMR), and said the company’s SMR is the first such reactor to receive NRC approval of its design.

NuScale on August 28 announced that with the DCA process now complete, “customers can proceed with plans to develop NuScale power plants with the understanding that the NRC has approved the safety aspects of the NuScale design.”

The NRC’s issuance of the agency’s Final Safety Evaluation Report (FSER) represents the group’s completion of the technical review and approval process for NuScale’s SMR design. NuScale will discuss the company’s technology during POWER’s Digital Energy Experience, a now all-virtual program scheduled for October 19-22.

‘Significant Milestone’

“This is a significant milestone not only for NuScale, but also for the entire U.S. nuclear sector and the other advanced nuclear technologies that will follow,” said John Hopkins, NuScale chairman and CEO, in a statement Friday. “This clearly establishes the leadership of NuScale and the U.S. in the race to bring SMRs to market. 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 U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for its continued commitment to our successful private-public partnership to bring the country’s first SMR to market, and to the many other individuals who have dedicated countless hours to make this extraordinary moment a reality.

An artist’s rendering of a NuScale SMR site. Courtesy: NuScale Power

“Additionally, the cost-shared funding provided by Congress over the past several years has accelerated NuScale’s advancement through the NRC Design Certification process,” Hopkins said. “This is what DOE’s SMR Program was created to do, and our success is credited to strong bipartisan support from Congress.”

NuScale’s DCA was completed in December 2016 and accepted by the NRC in March 2017. According to NuScale, the review process “demonstrated both the simplicity of NuScale’s SMR design and the thoroughness of the company’s application.” NuScale said that during the Phase 1 review process, which included 115,000 hours spent reviewing the DCA, the NRC issued far fewer requests for additional information compared to other design certification applications.

NuScale said the company, with support from Fluor—the majority investor in NuScale—invested more than $500 million along with more than 2 million labor hours to develop the information needed to prepare the DCA. The company said it submitted 14 separate Topical Reports, in addition to more than 12,000 pages of documentation, for its DCA application. The company also provided more than 2 million pages of supporting information for NRC audits.

Years-Long Review

In April 2018, NuScale’s SMR design certification application became the first to complete the NRC’s Phase 1 review. In July 2019, the NRC completed Phases 2 and 3 of the design certification process. In December 2019, the NRC completed Phase 4, and the final two phases are now complete, meeting the original schedule of completing the review by September of this year.

“The NRC embraced the challenge of reviewing the first-ever small modular reactor DCA, which at the time not only marked an important milestone for NuScale, but also for the nuclear industry as a whole,” said Tom Bergman, NuScale’s vice president of regulatory affairs. “NuScale appreciates the dedication, time, and effort of the NRC throughout this multi-year process, often with reviews completing ahead of schedule. As a long-time former NRC employee, including as an executive in the Office of New Reactors, I can say that this early issuance of the FSER is truly a credit to everyone at the NRC—including technical review and project staff, management, and the Commission.”

NuScale on Friday said the company “continues to maintain strong program momentum toward commercialization of its SMR technology, including supply chain development, standard plant design, planning of plant delivery activities, and startup and commissioning plans.”

The company said it continues to receive interest from both U.S. and international groups who see NuScale’s technology “as a long-term solution for providing reliable, safe, affordable, and operationally flexible carbon-free energy for diverse applications.” NuScale said it has signed agreements with entities in the U.S., Canada, Romania, the Czech Republic, and Jordan, and similar agreements with other groups are being negotiated.

First Commercial Site in Idaho

Utilizing NuScale Power’s technology, the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) is planning to construct the first commercial SMR power plant. The SMR power plant will be located on the DOE’s  890-square-mile Idaho site, at the Idaho National Laboratory, and is expected to generate 720 MW of emissions-free power, utilizing 12 NuScale modules.

The first module is expected to be operational in Idaho by mid-2029, with the remaining 11 modules scheduled to come online a year later.

That installation, part of UAMPS Carbon-Free Power Project launched in 2015, has been opposed by the Utah Taxpayers Association, which recently said cities and towns subscribed to the project should withdraw by a Sept. 14 deadline, to avoid being locked into billions of dollars in costs it said would be associated with the project.

UAMPS is a political subdivision of the state of Utah. It provides comprehensive wholesale electricity, on a nonprofit basis, to 47 members—mostly municipalities—in six states: Utah, California, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wyoming. The Carbon-Free Power Project is part of UAMPS long-term strategy to reduce carbon emissions and replace aging coal-fired power plants.

Darrell Proctor is associate editor for POWER (@DarrellProctor1, @POWERmagazine).

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