The Era of Scalable Modular Reactors

Today, we live in a period of unprecedented innovation. We’re more connected and have access to more and better technology than ever before in human history.

NuScale Power, the company behind the first – and only – small modular reactor (SMR) to ever undergo U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission design certification review, is working to make sure that we not only have the tools to catch up to the reality of today’s energy needs, but also the technology to pioneer the energy system of tomorrow.

NuScale’s nuclear power technology is based on a fully factory-fabricated SMR, capable of generating 60 megawatts of smarter, cleaner, and affordable electricity. NuScale’s full 12-module plant – equaling a total of 720 megawatts of electricity – can not only generate electricity for a community, but can also provide heat for industrial applications and district heating, hydrogen for fuel cell cars or energy storage, and clean water through desalination. The scalable nature of SMR technology also means that regions with smaller electrical grids and limited infrastructure can add new electrical capacity in properly scaled increments and in distributed locations.

In just a few years, NuScale will commercialize the first SMR power plant in the United States. The company is also pursuing international licensing, as countries on five continents have already expressed interest in NuScale’s technology.

NuScale continues to make significant regulatory progress. In April 2018, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) completed the first and most intensive phase of review for NuScale Power’s design certification application (DCA), in a process that took over 115,000 hours. NuScale’s design remains on track to be approved by September 2020. This year, the NRC approved NuScale’s design approach demonstrating how no safety-related electrical power would be needed to ensure safety – a first for the nuclear industry. The NRC also preliminarily concluded that a NuScale design meets the conditions for a site boundary emergency protection zone (EPZ), in a new draft safety evaluation report for the emergency planning aspects of Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) early site permit (ESP) at its Clinch River site.

Even as the regulatory process to review NuScale’s technology continues, NuScale continues to forge ahead with technological innovation. In June 2018, NuScale announced its SMR can generate 20 percent more power than originally planned. Increasing the power generating capacity of a 12-module NuScale SMR plant by 20 percent, with very minimal change in capital costs, lowers the cost of the facility on a per kilowatt basis from an expected $5,000 to approximately $4,200. It also lowers NuScale’s levelized cost of electricity by up to 18 percent, making it even more competitive with other electricity generation sources.

Chris Colbert, chief strategy officer, NuScale Power

Chris Colbert, chief strategy officer, NuScale Power

As the company gets closer to commercialization, NuScale has taken major steps to make its design a reality. This fall, NuScale entered the manufacturing phase for its SMR by selecting Virginia-based BWX Technologies, Inc. (BWXT) to start the engineering work to manufacture NuScale’s SMR. The decision followed a rigorous 18-month selection process, with interest from 83 companies based in 10 countries, to determine the best company to refine NuScale’s design for manufacturability, assembly, and transportability.

NuScale’s recent progress hasn’t been limited to the United States. NuScale has also informed the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) of its plan to submit an application under the CNSC’s pre-licensing vendor design review process in 2019.

Thanks to NuScale’s innovative technology and significant milestones this year, the energy system of tomorrow might be here sooner than we think.

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control roomWashington D.C. cityscape at dusk with rush hour traffic trails on I-395 highway. Washington Monument, illuminated, dominates the skyline.