Legal & Regulatory

NuScale Submits Standard Design Approval Application to NRC for Uprated SMR Design

NuScale Power has submitted a standard design approval (SDA) application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) based on its six-module VOYGR-6 configuration, which will use uprated 250-MWth (77-MWe) modules. The step is crucial for the proposed construction of the 462-MWe Carbon Free Power Plant at an Idaho National Laboratory (INL) site.

NuScale’s SDA application submitted to the NRC on Jan. 1, 2023, includes the “entire Final Safety Analysis Report (FSAR) and all technical reports, which are incorporated by reference into the FSAR,” the company said. Three additional Licensing Topical Reports that will serve as references to the FSAR, “but are not incorporated by reference,” are expected to be submitted “in the coming days,” it added.

A Big Step for NuScale’s 77-MWe Module

An SDA essentially paves the way for NuScale’s small modular reactor (SMR) standard design to be referenced in an application for a construction permit or operating license under Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations (10 CFR) Part 50, or an application for a combined license or manufacturing license under 10 CFR Part 52.

The submittal announced on Wednesday is NuScale’s second SDA application, but it follows a lengthy list of regulatory firsts for the company’s light water reactor (LWR) SMR technology. In September 2020, NuScale garnered an NRC SDA for its 50-MWe module, based on a 12-module plant rated at 1,920 MWth (600 MWe). The company submitted a design certification application based on the 50-MWe module configuration in December 2016. In July 2022, the NRC certified the 50-MWe design, making it only the seventh reactor design certification that the regulatory body has issued for use in the U.S. 

In 2018, however, NuScale raised its NuScale Power Module’s (NPM’s) capacity from 50 MWe to 60 MWe after confirming the increase using advanced testing and modeling tools. The company had then told POWER the power uprate from 50 MWe to 60 MWe would lower the cost of the 12-module facility from an expected $5,000/kW to about $4,300/kW with a “very minimal change in capital costs.” In November 2020, the company announced another significant uprate, boosting the NPM’s capacity from 60 MWe to 77 MWe (gross). The uprate effectively expanded the company’s flagship 12-module plant size from 720 MWe to 924 MWe. “Furthermore, the scalable, 12-module power plant will now approach a size that makes it a true competitor for the gigawatt-size market,” the company had then said.

NuScale in November 2020, however, also launched two smaller plant solutions—a four-module plant of about 308 MWe, and a six-module plant of about 462 MWe—to provide potential customers more options in terms of size, power output, operational flexibility, and cost. The smaller plants would also have smaller footprints, and more simplified construction, which could reduce construction schedules and costs, it said. In December 2021, the company unveiled an official name for its SMR power plants—VOYGR. The 924-MWe plant, featuring 12 NuScale power modules, is known as a VOYGR-12, the 308-MWe four-module plant is known as VOYGR-4, and the 462-MWe six-module plant, VOYGR-6.

On Wednesday, the company noted its design powered by the uprated 77-MWe module features “the same fundamental safety case and totally passive safety features approved by the NRC in 2020, with a power uprate and select design changes to support customers’ capacity needs and further improve economics.”

The design “remains the only SMR design application to be submitted to and approved by the NRC, marking a significant milestone for NuScale and the entire energy industry,” NuScale added. “That approval has set the stage for an efficient and effective review of the second SDA application, with NuScale establishing alignment with the NRC through a robust pre-application engagement and readiness review process.”

CFPP Gearing Up for January 2024 COLA Submission

While NuScale has several construction prospects underway worldwide, only one NuScale project appears to be under active development in the U.S. CFPP LLC, an entity wholly owned by the Utah state energy services interlocal agency Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS), is spearheading the 462-MWe Carbon-Free Power Project—the first VOYGR-6 power plant—at an Idaho National Laboratory (INL) site in Idaho Falls, Idaho. As originally envisioned, the CFPP was to be built as a 12-module, 720-MWe project. However, the project was later downsized to a VOYGR-6 to provide much-needed flexibility as UAMPS scrambled to secure financial commitments from its members

For now, project partners CFPP, Fluor, and NuScale are targeting a 2029 startup for the first 77-MWe module at the Carbon Free Power Project. The remaining five modules are expected to come online for full plant operation by 2030. The partners are actively developing a combined license application (COLA). CFPP has said it expects to submit the COLA to the NRC in January 2024 in accordance with the regulatory agency’s 10 CFR 52 requirements. In recent filings with the NRC, CFPP said that while it has been tracking and participating in draft 10 CFR 53 rulemaking discussions for advanced reactor designs, it does not anticipate Part 53 rulemaking “to be complete prior to the CFPP COLA submittal.”

NuScale on Dec. 22, notably, announced it had completed the standard plant design (SPD) project ahead of schedule, a milestone that “offers a significant foothold for NuScale’s current and future customers, allowing them to focus investment and engineering resources on site-specific concerns during development,” it said. The milestone demonstrated its “preparedness for facility construction and equipment procurement and manufacturing of long-lead major engineered equipment while underscoring the company’s unmatched level of progress toward delivering VOYGR SMR power plants to customers around the world,” it noted.

Romanian NuScale Project Readying for FEED Work

On Wednesday, NuScale noted that NRC approvals for its design’s safety aspect has been pivotal for prospects abroad. In November 2021, NuScale signed a teaming agreement with Romania’s Nuclearelectrica to help the state-owned power, heat, and nuclear fuel producer to take steps toward deploying a six-module, 462-MWe VOYGR-6 power plant in Romania as early as 2027/2028. And in February 2022, NuScale Power signed a definitive commercial agreement with mining and processing firm KGHM Polska Miedź S.A. to deploy a VOYGR power plant of up to 924 MWe as early as 2029 to support KGHM’s copper and silver production in Poland.

On Jan. 4, the company reported that it had signed a contract for the first phase of front-end engineering and design (FEED) work for the first SMR in Romania. The project is being developed by RoPower Nuclear S.A. (RoPower)—a joint venture between S.N. Nuclearelectrica S.A. (Romania’s nuclear energy producer) and Nova Power & Gas S.A. “Phase 1 of the FEED work awarded to NuScale will define the major site and specific inputs for a VOYGR-6 SMR power plant to be deployed at the Doicesti Power Station site in Romania,” NuScale said. “The eight-month project includes the issuance of subcontracts to perform the environmental impact assessment and subsurface geotechnical investigation, the evaluation of site and site-specific requirements for NuScale’s standard plant design, and the development of a project-specific cost estimate.”

Sonal Patel is a POWER senior associate editor (@sonalcpatel@POWERmagazine).