by Will Davis
On March 15, 2017, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that it had accepted NuScale Power’s application for Design Certification of its innovative Small Modular Reactor (SMR) design. This begins what will be, according to NuScale, an approximately 40-month process until the design is certified by the NRC.
After almost a decade of preparation, investigation, investment and growth, NuScale submitted its application to the NRC only as recently as January 12 of this year. Despite all of the media furor surrounding SMRs the last five or so years, this is the first submission to the NRC for design certification of any modern-type of SMR.
In its March 15 press release, NuScale noted that the NRC had accepted the application “within the 60-day docketing review period” (meaning that no additional requests were made of NuScale by NRC) and quoted NuScale CEO John Hopkins as saying that that this “uncommon” event served as “validation of all of our hard work over the past eight years.”
NuScale majority investor Fluor Corporation also issued a press release. In it, Fluor Chairman and CEO David Seaton said that “Fluor is pleased that the NRC validated the receipt of NuScale’s design certification application in such a timely manner. We believe that the future of the U.S. new-build power generation industry includes NuScale’s small modular reactor technology and that NuScale is uniquely positioned as the only U.S. company leading the way.” (This is accurate, as the end of the Generation mPower program was recently announced; none of the other water cooled SMR’s has any real momentum in the field at the moment, either.)
Fluor Corporation began its important association with NuScale in October 2011. As stated in Fluor’s press release, this arrangement was made before the announcement of any U.S. Department of Energy cost sharing funding availability. Fluor has a long history with nuclear energy. It entered the field of nuclear plant engineering and construction itself in 1970, acquired Pioneer Service and Engineering in 1974 (active as a nuclear architect-engineer) and in 1977 acquired Daniels International which had been active in nuclear plant construction. According to Fluor’s website the company (including Pioneer and Daniels, assuredly) “designed three nuclear power plants, constructed ten nuclear power plants and supported construction on another ten nuclear units during the 1970’s and 1980’s.” Most recently, Fluor Corporation was named to manage construction of the four Westinghouse AP1000 units being built in the United States in 2015.
The first NuScale Power SMR power plant will be constructed at the Idaho National Laboratory. The company already possesses a site use license from the DOE allowing it to select a suitable location within the boundary of INL, construct and operate its nuclear plant. UAMPS, the Utah Associated Municipal Power System, will take the energy provided by the plant, which itself will be operated by Energy Northwest (who own and operate the record-setting Columbia Generating Station on the Hanford Reservation, Washington).
Will Davis is a member of the Board of Directors for the N/S Savannah Association, Inc. He is a consultant to the Global America Business Institute, a contributing author for Fuel Cycle Week, and he writes his own popular blog Atomic Power Review. Davis is also a consultant and writer for the American Nuclear Society, and serves on the ANS Communications Committee and on the Book Publishing Committee. He is a former U.S. Navy reactor operator and served on SSBN-641, USS Simon Bolivar.