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NuScale’s Small Modular Nuclear Reactor Keeps Moving Forward

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James Conca, Forbes

NuScale Power, the small modular nuclear reactor company, has received notice that its design certification application has been accepted for review by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

The first Small Modular Reactor company to file a license application to NRC, NuScale’s Power Module has also become the first design to be accepted by the NRC for a full review. The SMR is indeed smaller than any existing commercial reactors giving it great flexibility, low cost and something we’ve been waiting for – it cannot meltdown.

NuScale Power is a company with a mission – to build the first small modular nuclear reactor in America. As of now, they are certainly on track. In January, NuScale submitted the first design certification application for any SMR in the United States to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

This week, a mere two months later, NRC has accepted their design certification application – light speed for our nuclear bureaucracy. By accepting the DCA for review, the NRC staff confirms that NuScale’s submission addresses all of the NRC requirements and contains sufficient technical information to conduct a full review.

It seems NuScale has all its ducks in a row, absolutely critical for as fast a review and licensing as possible. Those ducks included about 12,000 pages of technical information from over 800 NuScale staff and about 40,000 NRC staff-hours in pre-application discussions and interactions.

Even so, the review will take most of 40 months, after which NRC will issue a design certification that will be valid for 15 years for NuScale to construct this new type of power plant.

The first commercial NuScale power plant is planned for construction on the site of the Idaho National Laboratory for the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) and operated by experienced nuclear operator Energy Northwest.

Says NuScale CEO John Hopkins, “There is a real need to upgrade American infrastructure to provide for clean and reliable electricity to spur growth in the U.S. There is a real need to boost American manufacturing, and create American jobs.”

This is no small goal. Conservative estimates predict between 55 and 75 GW of electricity will come from operating SMRs around the world by 2035, the equivalent of more than 1,000 NuScale Power Modules. And America should lead that effort.

Originally developed at Oregon State University by NuScale co-founder and OSU nuclear physics professor Jose Reyes, now NuScale’s chief technology officer, NuScale is partnered with Fluor Corporation (NYSE: FLR), a global engineering, procurement, and construction company with a 60-year history in commercial nuclear power.

NuScale has their work cut out for them. NRC has never licensed an SMR, and conventional wisdom says the licensing period will be longer than usual. So NuScale spent a lot of time doing everything necessary to give NRC everything they needed to make it easy to license this reactor. NuScale spent $30 million dollars in testing, built large-scale test facilities and a unique control room multi-reactor simulator on the Campus of OSU.

This nuclear reactor is something that we’ve never seen before – a small modular reactor that is economic, factory built and shippable, flexible enough to desalinate seawater, refine oil, load-follow wind, produce hydrogen, modular to make the power plant any size, and that provides something we’ve all been waiting for – a reactor that cannot meltdown.

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