NuScale highlights non-power uses of its SMR

19 September 2017

The NuScale Power Module design has "some unique features that help with alternative uses of nuclear power", Thomas Bergman, NuScale's vice president for regulatory affairs, told the World Nuclear Association's Symposium, held in London last week. The company has completed five collaborative studies on non-power applications of its small modular reactor (SMR) technology, he said.

Thomas Bergman - NuScale - Sympo 2017 - 460 (WNA)
Bergman discussing uses for NuScale's SMR (Image: World Nuclear Association)

Bergman told delegates that NuScale's mission is to provide scalable advanced nuclear technology for the production of electricity, heat and water to improve the quality of life for people around the world.

"NuScale has completed five collaborative studies to look at alternative uses of the NuScale Power Module to support that mission," he said. The studies have looked at desalination to provide clean water; hydrogen production for both fuel and chemical feedstock; providing clean air by reducing carbon emissions at oil refineries - "a technology you don't often think partnering with nuclear", Bergman said. "Similarly, we have looked at a study combining one of our modules with a wind farm. We don't see wind and solar as opponents. We do believe nuclear and renewables go hand in hand." The company has also looked at the provision of reliable power to certain areas or facilities.

NuScale conducted an initial study with its major owner Fluor of coupling a NuScale plant to an oil refinery. This was for a ten-module plant coupled to a 250,000 barrels per day refinery. The study found some 190 tonnes per hour of carbon dioxide emissions could be avoided through this application.

A study was also carried out with the Idaho National Laboratory on hydrogen production using high temperature steam. The study focused on using high-temperature steam electrolysis and evaluated technical issues, including topping heat and energy recuperation. The study also evaluated economic issues, including the impact of natural gas prices. It found that a six-module NuScale plant can produce 190 tonnes per day of hydrogen and 1500 tonnes of oxygen per day. Only 2% of the electrical output from the power plant is needed to increase the process steam temperature to 850°C while producing no carbon emissions.

NuScale also undertook a study with Aquatech International on the use of the NuScale Power Module for water desalination. The study looked at using an eight-module plant to produce 50 million gallons per day of clean water plus 340 MWe to the grid - sufficient to support a city of around 300,000 people.

The study considered all three leading desalination technologies - reverse osmosis (RO), multi-stage flash (MSF) desalination and multi-effect desalination (MED) - and evaluated technical aspects of coupling a NuScale plant with these. The study compared water production rates and economic efficiencies for each technology. For RO, a single dedicated NuScale module was found to produce up to 340,000 cubic meters of potable water. One module was also found able to produce about 30,000 cubic meters of clean water using steam extraction, plus 30 MW of power, when coupled with MSF technology. For MED technology, one module produces some 50,000 cubic meters of water through steam extraction, plus 30 MW of electricity.he

A study with Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) and Energy Northwest considered NuScale's capabilities for following electric load requirements as they vary with demand and variable output from renewables. The study looked at the use of a single NuScale module to balance output from the 58 MWe wind farm at UAMPS's Horse Butte site in southern Idaho.

According to Bergman, there are three ways of changing the power output from a NuScale plant. The first is by taking one or more modules offline for extended period of low grid demand or sustained wind output. The second is to adjust reactor power for one or more modules over intermediate time frames, while the third, which is suitable for short time frames, is to bypass turbine steam to the condenser.

"You can't really operate a nuclear power plant like that, just on control rods and fuel," he noted.

"There are certain parts of the country or industries that need very reliable power - they can't afford to go without power," he said. "We call that critical infrastructure and we did a study showing what kind of reliability you can achieve with NuScale depending on your power needs."

Connection to a micro-grid and the ability for 100% turbine bypass allows a NuScale plant to assure 100 MWe net power at 99.99% reliability over a 60-year operating life.

"Our design has some unique features that help with these alternative uses of nuclear power," Bergman said.

NuScale's self-contained SMR design houses the reactor core, pressuriser and steam generator inside a single containment vessel. It relies on convection, not pumps, to circulate water in the primary circuit. A single module can generate 50 MWe (gross) of electricity and is just under 25 meters in length, 4.6 meters in diameter and weighs around 450 tonnes. A power plant could include as many as 12 NuScale modules to produce as much as 600 MWe (gross).

In December, NuScale submitted the first-ever SMR design certification application to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which the NRC accepted on 15 March. The first commercial NuScale power plant is planned for construction on the site of the Idaho National Laboratory for Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems and operated by Energy Northwest.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News