For all the talk about SMRs over the past two decades or more, there have been no SMR license applications submitted to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) until now. On 31 December 2016, NuScale Power, Portland, OR made the first ever request to the NRC to initiate a licensing review of an SMR. On 12 January 2017, NuScale made the formal submittal to NRC of all the required DCA documents for an SMR power plant comprised of 12 individual NuScale Power ModulesTM.
An NPM is a small pressurized water reactor (PWR) with an integrated primary system and many passive features for normal modes of operation and for safe shutdown in response to abnormal or accident conditions. NuScale claims that the passive safety features enable shutdown and self-cooling with no operator action, no AC or DC power, and no external water.
You’ll find a good 2013 overview of the NuScale Power ModuleTM on the IAEA’s (International Atomic Energy Agency’s) ARIS (Advanced Reactor Information System) website at the following link:
More information is available on the NuScale Power website at the following link:
The basic, factory-manufactured NPM is rated at 160 MWt, which could deliver about 45 MWe. A power plant with 12 NPMs would have a combined output of 1,920 MWt and about 540 MWe. A single NPM is shown below.
NuScale Power anticipates a 42-month licensing process as outlined in the following chart. If this schedule can be achieved, then the NRC could issue a Design Certification (DC) as soon as July 2020. At that time, the standard design of a modular NuScale power plant with up to 12 NPMs will have NRC approval independent of an application to construct or operate a specific plant. A design certification is valid for 15 years from the date of issuance and can be renewed.
A license application for an actual plant will focus on site-specific issues and should not need to re-open issues already covered in the NRC’s DC review. This greatly de-risks construction of a new nuclear power plant based on the NPM standard design approved in the DC. NuScale forecasts that the first NPM could go into operation as soon as 2024.