US SMR consortium launched

29 January 2016

Developers and potential customers of small modular reactors (SMRs) on 27 January signed a memorandum of understanding to set up the SMR Start consortium to advance the commercialization of SMR reactor designs.

Initial members of the consortium include BWX Technologies Inc, Duke Energy, Energy Northwest, Holtec, NuScale, PSEG Nuclear, Southern Co, SCANA and Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). The organization will represent the companies in interactions with the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Congress and the executive branch on small reactor issues. US industry body the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) is assisting in the formation of the consortium, and is to work closely with the organization on policies and priorities relating to small reactor technology.

According to the NEI, SMR Start aims to "help accelerate the commercialization of SMRs by creating an industry-driven entity whereby potential reactor owners/operators would be a unified voice in a variety of policy and regulatory issues and in creating cost-share funding structures." The consortium will focus on SMR designs based on light-water reactors.

NEI vice president Dan Lipman said that the consortium would bring together "the best minds and leading advocates" of SMR technology to capitalize on its potential applications in the USA and abroad. "SMRs can be the best option in some markets and countries not suited to large reactors while providing the same reliable, carbon-free electricity," he said.

SMRs can generally be described as nuclear reactors with a typical capacity of 300 MWe equivalent or less, designed with modular technology using module factory fabrication, allowing economies of series production and short construction times. The US Department of Energy (DOE) foresees SMRs playing an important role in addressing the country's energy security, economic and climate goals if they can be commercially deployed within the next decade.

The DOE is currently supporting the preparation and review of the design certification application for NuScale's SMR. It is also supporting two SMR site licensing and permitting projects. A five-year agreement with the TVA to support an early site permit application to be followed by a combined construction and operating license (COL) application was finalized in July 2015. The award of a three-year cooperative agreement with NuScale and UAMPS to conduct site characterization activities and to prepare documentation leading to a COL application was finalized in August 2015.

The NRC expects to receive the first design certification application - for NuScale's SMR - in 2016.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News