NRC receives first SMR site application

16 May 2016

The Tennessee Valley Authority has submitted an Early Site Permit (ESP) application for small modular reactor units at Clinch River, Tennessee, to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).  

The ESP application for the 1200 acre (486 hectare) site near Oak Ridge is the first SMR-related application of any type to be submitted to the NRC, TVA chief nuclear officer Joe Grimes said. "It’s a significant event for us as we continue exploring potential SMR technology as a way of expanding our diverse portfolio," he added.

SMRs can generally be described as nuclear reactors with a typical capacity of 300 MWe equivalent or less, designed with modular technology and using module factory fabrication, allowing economies of series production and short construction times.

An ESP certifies that a site is suitable for the construction of a nuclear power plant from the point of view of site safety, environmental impact and emergency planning and is valid for ten to 20 years. As well as reviewing those aspects of the site, the NRC's ESP application review process also provides opportunities for public participation. An ESP does not specify any choice of technology.

TVA's senior manager for SMRs, Dan Stout, said the company was "still several years away" from any potential construction decision.

TVA's application and subsequent work on the review and approval process is being co-funded by the US Department of Energy (DOE) under a five-year inter-agency agreement finalized in July 2015. The department has been actively supporting the development and commercial deployment of SMRs, which it sees playing an important role in addressing the country's energy security, economic and climate goals. TVA said submission of the permit application is "firmly aligned" with the DOE's strategic goal.

As well as its agreement with TVA, the DOE is also supporting NuScale and Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems in site characterization activities at the Idaho National Laboratory under a three-year cost-shared cooperative agreement finalized in August 2015.

TVA, a government-owned corporation, has three nuclear power plants in its electricity generation portfolio - Browns Ferry, Sequoyah and Watts Bar - which produce some 30% of its electricity. It is preparing to start up Watts Bar unit 2. Earlier this month it announced plans to sell off the partially constructed nuclear power plant at Bellefonte in Alabama as it did not anticipate needing any new large-scale baseload capacity for at least the next 20 years, though it would continue to explore SMRs as a potential long-term resource.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News