SMR design review enters final phases

13 December 2019

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has completed the fourth phase of its review of the design certification application for NuScale's small modular reactor (SMR). With two final phases remaining, this marks the near-completion of the technical aspects of the review.

NuScale's power module (Image: NuScale)

"The completion of Phase 4 of the NRC's design review certification process is an unprecedented step forward for our company and for the advanced nuclear industry overall," NuScale Chairman and CEO John Hopkins said. "We appreciate the tremendous effort the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has dedicated to its thorough and rigorous review of our groundbreaking technology thus far."

NuScale's SMR design features a fully fabricated power module based on pressurised light water reactor technology. Each module can generate up to 60 MWe, and the scalable design can be used in power plants of up to 12 individual modules. It is the first - and so far only - SMR to undergo a design certification review by the NRC. This is scheduled for completion by September 2020, and a 12-module NuScale plant at a site at the Idaho National Laboratory is planned for deployment in the mid-2020s. The project to bring the reactor into production has received support from a public-private partnership with the US Department of Energy as well as from Congress.

The NRC's design certification process is based on a review by NRC staff of the application, which addresses the various safety issues associated with the proposed nuclear power plant design, independent of a specific site. In granting a design certification, the regulator approves a nuclear power plant design, independent of an application to construct or operate a plant. A design certification is valid for 15 years from the date of issuance, but can be renewed for a further 10 to 15 years.

Completion of Phase 4 of the review represents completion of the advanced safety evaluation report (SER) with no open items, NuScale said. Phase 5 entails a review by the NRC's Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS), an independent advisor to the regulator that reviews and reports on safety studies and reactor facility licence and licence renewal applications. The sixth and final phase of the review is the preparation of the final SER, which will incorporate confirmatory items from the Phase 4 advanced SER, and comments raised by ACRS in Phase 5. The final SER is scheduled for completion in September 2020.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News