US approves first design of small modular nuclear reactor

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The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has certified a design for an advanced small modular reactor (SMR) for the first time.

NuScale Power’s design has become the seventh reactor design approved for use in the US, a move the Department of Energy says would equip the country with a new clean source of energy and reduce emissions.

The NRC committee voted last July to certify the design, after a final technical review.

The rule goes into effect Feb. 21, allowing utilities to reference NuScale’s advanced light-water SMR design when applying for a combined permit to build and operate a reactor.

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Each of the modules is capable of generating 50 megawatts of emission-free electricity.

In addition, the department noted that the NuScale VOYGR SMR power plant can house up to 12 factory-built power modules that are about one-third the size of a large-scale reactor. Each power module uses natural processes to passively cool the reactor without additional water, power or operator action.

The company is currently aiming to have each module generate up to 77 megawatts. The committee is expected to review their application this year.

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“We are pleased to announce the landmark Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulation for NuScale’s small modular reactor design, and we thank the Department of Energy (DOE) for their support throughout this process,” said NuScale Power President and Chief Executive Officer John Hopkins in a statement.

John Hopkins, CEO and Chairman of NuScale, speaks at the Lowery Theater in Salford, England on July 8, 2016.

John Hopkins, CEO and Chairman of NuScale, speaks at the Lowery Theater in Salford, England on July 8, 2016.
(Jonathan Nicholson/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The Energy Department has provided more than $600 million since 2014 to support the design, licensing and establishment of NuScale’s VOYGR SMR power plant and other domestic SMR concepts.

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It is partnering with Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems to demonstrate a six-module NuScale VOYGR plant at Idaho National Laboratory, with the first module expected to be operational in 2029.

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NuScale said this month the target price for power from the plant is $89 per megawatt-hour, a 53% increase from the previous estimate of $58 per MWh.

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