US regulator issues first-ever SMR design approval

30 September 2020

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has issued a standard design approval (SDA) to NuScale Power, LLC for the NuScale small modular reactor. This allows the design to be referenced in applications for construction, operating and manufacturing licences and permits in the USA.

How a NuScale SMR plant might look (Image: NuScale)

According to a notice in yesterday's Federal Register, the NRC issued the SDA on 11 September, having already issued the final safety evaluation report (FSER) for the reactor. "Issuance of this SDA signifies completion of the NRC staff's technical review of the NuScale SMR design," NRC said.

"This is a significant milestone not only for NuScale, but also for the entire US nuclear sector and the other advanced nuclear technologies that will follow," said NuScale Chairman and CEO John Hopkins.

NuScale submitted its application for certification of its design for use in the USA on 31 December 2016. The FSER, which was issued by NRC in late-August, marked the completion of the technical review and approval of the design which uses passive processes such as convection and gravity in its operating systems and safety features to produce about 600 MW of electricity. Twelve modules, each producing 50 MW, are submerged in a safety-related pool built below ground level.

Design certification means the NRC approves a nuclear power plant design independent of an application to construct or operate a plant. The SDA allows the NuScale SMR standard design to be referenced in an application for a construction permit or operating licence, or an application for a combined licence or manufacturing licence under NRC regulations. Site-specific licensing procedures must still be completed and a combined construction and operating licence obtained before any construction can begin.

Hopkins said the cost-shared funding provided by Congress over the past several years had accelerated NuScale’s advancement through the NRC design certification process.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News