The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has made history by granting certification to a design for an advanced small modular reactor (SMR). This certification allows power companies to select this advanced reactor design when applying for a license to construct and run a new power plant. This is a major endorsement for a potential solution to climate change that is still met with skepticism among environmentalists. It marks the beginning of an entirely new generation of nuclear reactors. “SMRs are no longer an abstract concept”, said Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Kathryn Huff in a Department of Energy press release. However, it remains to be seen if these advanced reactors can overcome the obstacles that conventional nuclear power plants have faced. There is still a long way to go with testing and research.
Nuclear energy supporters are pushing to bring the technology out of the laboratory and into the real world as the Biden administration aims to implement carbon-free energy to meet its climate objectives. They argue that nuclear plants, which don’t produce greenhouse gas emissions, can provide vital support to solar and wind energy that varies with the weather. Due to their small and modular design (meaning they can be manufactured in a factory), these next-generation reactors are believed to be less expensive and easier to construct and locate than traditional nuclear power plants. The NRC certified design is roughly one-third the size of a conventional reactor and is based on a concept that originated at Oregon State University in the early 2000s. The Department of Energy (DOE) has provided over $600 million to the company that emerged from that research project, NuScale Power, and other advanced reactor concepts to develop the technology since 2014.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has granted certification for the design of an advanced small modular reactor (SMR) for the first time. This certification allows utilities to use this advanced reactor design when applying for licenses to build and operate new power plants. The NRC’s approval is a significant step forward for a potential solution to climate change that has been met with some skepticism from environmentalists. The DOE and NuScale are currently collaborating with Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems to construct a demonstration power plant using these SMRs. The first module is expected to be operational in 2029, with the remaining modules becoming fully operational the following year. The approved design can generate up to 50MW of electricity, however, Nuscale has requested to increase that to 77MW. The demonstration plant will be constructed in Idaho, with six modules collectively generating 462MW. Despite the project facing rising costs, the DOE and NuScale are determined to push forward with this innovative technology in the hopes of providing a reliable, carbon-free energy source.
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has taken a crucial step in advancing small modular reactors (SMRs) by certifying the design for an advanced SMR. This marks a significant milestone for the technology, which is still considered controversial by some environmentalists. Despite this, the certification allows utilities to select the advanced reactor design when applying for a license to build and operate a new power plant.
The NRC’s approval represents a breakthrough for a new generation of nuclear reactors, but there is still much work to be done before the technology can be fully implemented. The DOE and NuScale are collaborating with the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems to construct a demonstration power plant with small modular reactors. While the first module is expected to come online in 2029, the project has already faced cost increases, and there are still a number of challenges to be addressed, including public safety concerns, securing nuclear fuel supply chains, and finding solutions for nuclear waste disposal.