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NuScale Completes Key Milestone with NRC

Dan Yurman's picture
Editor & Publisher NeutronBytes, a blog about nuclear energy

Publisher of NeutronBytes, a blog about nuclear energy online since 2007.  Consultant and project manager for technology innovation processes and new product / program development for commercial...

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  • Sep 16, 2020
  • NRC Issues Final Safety Evaluation Report for NuScale Small Modular Reactor
  • Holtec Successfully Completes Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission Phase 1 Vendor Design Review
  • NRC releases Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Interim Storage Partners’ Consolidated Interim Storage Facility

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has issued a final safety evaluation report for NuScale’s small modular reactor design. This meets the agency’s original 42-month technical review schedule and demonstrates the NRC’s commitment to timely licensing of safe technologies for new, advanced reactors. The NRC is preparing a rulemaking to certify the design.

The NRC completed Phase 6 review — the last and final phase—of the Design Certification Application (DCA) for the company’s small modular reactor (SMR) with the issuance of the Final Safety Evaluation Report (FSER).

The FSER represents completion of the technical review and approval of the NuScale SMR design.

With this final phase of NuScale’s DCA now complete, customers can proceed with plans to develop NuScale power plants with the understanding that the NRC has approved the safety aspects of the NuScale design.

NuScale applied on Dec. 31, 2016, for certification of the company’s SMR design for use in the United States; the NRC accepted the design for review in March 2017.

The review process demonstrated the simplicity of NuScale’s SMR design and the thoroughness of the company’s application. As an example, during the rigorous Phase 1 review process, which included 115,000 hours spent reviewing the DCA, the NRC issued far fewer requests for additional information compared to other design certification applications.

NuScale spent over $500 million, with the backing of Fluor, and over 2 million labor hours to develop the information needed to prepare its DCA application. The company also submitted 14 separate Topical Reports in addition to the over 12,000 pages for its DCA application and provided more than 2 million pages of supporting information for NRC audits.

Neither a standard design approval nor a design certification grant permission to build or operate a reactor. Full certification, if granted by the Commission following the staff’s recommendation, allows a utility to reference the design when applying for a combined license to build and operate a nuclear power plant.

The design uses natural “passive” processes such as convection and gravity in its operating systems and safety features to produce approximately 50MW of electricity for each module. The SMR’s 12 modulesare all submerged in a safety-related pool built below ground level. The NRC concludes the design’s passive features will ensure the nuclear power plant would shut down safely and remain safe under emergency conditions, if necessary.

NuScale has indicated it will apply in 2022 for a standard design approval of a 60-megawatt-per-module version of the design. That version will require additional NRC review.

NuScale Takes a Victory Lap
NuScale Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Hopkins said, “This is a significant milestone not only for NuScale, but also for the entire U.S. nuclear sector and the other advanced nuclear technologies that will follow. This clearly establishes the leadership of NuScale and the U.S. in the race to bring SMRs to market.”

“The approval of NuScale’s design is an incredible accomplishment and we would like to extend our deepest thanks to the NRC for their comprehensive review, to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for its continued commitment to our successful private-public partnership to bring the country’s first SMR to market, and to the many other individuals who have dedicated countless hours to make this extraordinary moment a reality.”

“Additionally, the cost-shared funding provided by Congress over the past several years has accelerated NuScale’s advancement through the NRC Design Certification process. This is what DOE’s SMR Program was created to do, and our success is credited to strong bipartisan support from Congress.”

NuScale Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Tom Bergman said, “The NRC embraced the challenge of reviewing the first-ever small modular reactor DCA, which at the time not only marked an important milestone for NuScale, but also for the nuclear industry as a whole.”

NuScale appreciates the dedication, time, and effort of the NRC throughout this multi-year process, often with reviews completing ahead of schedule. As a long-time former NRC employee, including as an executive in the Office of New Reactors, I can say that this early issuance of the FSER is truly a credit to everyone at the NRC—including technical review and project staff, management, and the Commission.”
What’s Next for NuScale? 

NuScale said it continues to maintain strong program momentum toward commercialization of its SMR technology, including supply chain development, standard plant design, planning of plant delivery activities, and startup and commissioning plans.

The company fields growing domestic and international customer interest from those who see the NuScale power plant as a long-term solution for providing reliable, safe, affordable, and operationally flexible carbon-free energy for diverse applications.

NuScale has signed agreements with entities in the U.S., Canada, Romania, the Czech Republic, and Jordan. Similar agreements with other entities are being negotiated.

NuScale’s first customer. UAMPS, is working with the vendor to develop the first of a kind installation at a site at the Idaho National Laboratory. However, UAMPS also recently said its member cities and utilities might not need the reactor until 2030, a 2-year setback from the original delivery target date.

Nuclear Energy Institute Statement on NuScale FSER

Marc Nichol, senior director of new reactors at the Nuclear Energy Institute said, “The approval of NuScale’s small modular reactor design is not only a monumental milestone for NuScale but is a crucial step for the future of the industry. As the first U.S. small modular reactor design to be issued a FSER, NuScale is pioneering the way for additional innovative advanced nuclear technologies under development.

“NuScale’s design approval, the first of its kind, brings the country closer to meeting its clean energy goals and making electricity more accessible for all. This milestone demonstrates the nuclear industry can meet the demands for reliable, safe and affordable carbon-free energy here in the U.S. but also meet the demands of customers across the world.”

Holtec Successfully Completes Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission Phase 1 Vendor Design Review

Holtec International’s SMR, LLC has successfully completed Phase 1 of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) “Pre-Licensing Review of a Vendor’s Reactor Design” for its small modular reactor design, the SMR-160.

A Vendor Design Review (VDR) is an assessment service CNSC provides to nuclear power plant designers. The benefits of this direct engagement are early feedback on the SMR-160 design as it addresses CNSC regulatory requirements and early identification and resolution of potential regulatory or technical issues on the design process.

The CNSC staff concluded that “overall, SMR, LLC understands and has correctly interpreted the high-level intent of CNSC’s regulatory requirements for the design of nuclear power plants in Canada pertaining to the scope of the Phase 1 VDR.”

“This milestone reinforces our expectation that the SMR-160 will meet Canada’s regulatory requirements while also providing valuable feedback that will allow us to further improve the design throughout the ongoing regulatory process,” said Dr. Kris Singh, President and Chief Executive Officer of Holtec International.

SMR, LLC started Phase 1 of the VDR in mid-2018, addressing the associated 19 focus areas and submitting hundreds of documents over the course of 18 months to support the review.

Successfully concluding Phase 1 demonstrates the significant progression of the design and associated engineering processes. As expected, the CNSC identified some areas that require follow-up in Phase 2 of the VDR as the review moves further into the details of the design.

Based on feedback received from the Phase 1 VDR, SMR, Holtec LLC plans to pursue a Phase 2 VDR in the near future, to continue this process for its walk-away safe reactor in order to gain assurance of a path to licensing certainty in Canada.

NRC releases Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Interim Storage Partners’
Consolidated Interim Storage Facility for Used Nuclear Fuel

Interim Storage Partners received notification on 08/27/20 from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission of a favorable finding included in a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for ISP’s consolidated interim storage facility (CISF) application.

The DEIS concludes that the application submitted by ISP, a joint venture of Orano USA and Waste Control Specialists, to construct and operate a consolidated interim storage facility for used nuclear fuel at the existing WCS storage site in Andrews County, Texas, will have no discernable negative effects on the environment or natural resources.

Following a public comment period, the current NRC schedule calls for the development of a final EIS during the second quarter of 2021.

In addition to the EIS, the NRC staff is concurrently conducting an analysis and review of the technical safety aspects of the ISP application. This effort, also scheduled to conclude during the second quarter of 2021, will result in a staff Safety Evaluation Report (SER). The completed EIS and SER would form the basis for the issuance of a license by the NRC.

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Sep 16, 2020

NuScale has indicated it will apply in 2022 for a standard design approval of a 60-megawatt-per-module version of the design. That version will require additional NRC review.

How much of a difference do you think having this additional size will make when it comes to value in the marketplace? Are there tangible applications where the first design really wouldn't work but the 60 MW would be optimal and make the economics work out? 

Dan Yurman's picture
Dan Yurman on Sep 18, 2020

I really don't have a definitive answer for the question. In principle power uprates are always cheaper than new designs or new builds. Also. NuScale works on the idea that a utility will buy six or 12 units over time.

For a 50MW design, six=300WM and 12=600MW.

For a 60 MW design, six=360MW and 12=720MW. 

The incremental difference is more significant when a utility buys 12 units over time, a 20% increase in power acquired over time in a pay as you go plan, e.g., the revenue from the 1st units pays for the second, and so on.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Sep 18, 2020

That's fair-- the context of buying numerous units does tilt the scales of overall impact. Though it would still beg the question how much of a tangible difference is between buying twelve 50MW reactors for 600 total MW vs. ten 60MW reactors to get the same capacity. 

Roger Lippman's picture
Roger Lippman on Sep 23, 2020

Now for some good news:

PacifiCorp, in its Integrated Resource Plan analysis, looked at the price of NuScale's project proposal for Idaho Falls. The utility projects the NuScale project to cost $6,229/kW, plus operation and maintenance costs of nearly $200/kW-year, which amounts to another $6000/kW over 30 years.

By contrast, the resource cost for solar plus batteries at Idaho Falls: about $1,600/kW plus only $30/kW-year for O&M.

In other words, the choice is between four times as much for nuclear, plus much higher operational costs; or the alternative, a resource literally falling on the ground. Idaho Falls and its customers can wait a decade for the NuScale project to be completed, with likely cost increases and delays along the way; or they can have proven solar power within a year. (See PacifiCorp document at . Data cited shown on pages 12 and 8, respectively.)

Three participating municipal utilities in Utah have bailed on it in the past month. The remaining participants have about a month to decide whether to stay or not.

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