The US Nuclear Regulatory Fee (NRC) has finalized guidelines permitting development of nuclear small modular reactors (SMRs) – the primary time a design has been licensed for commercialization.
The reactor design licensed by the NRC comes from NuScale, which produces modular light-water reactors able to producing 50MW of energy alone, and which may be chained collectively in teams of 4, six or 12.
We beforehand reported on approval of NuScale’s VOYGR SMR by the NRC in August of final yr, however at the moment it was unclear when the ultimate rule would seem. The NRC solely mentioned final yr that it had directed workers to get a rule written.
In accordance with the NRC’s statements in August, NuScale’s SMRs had been the seventh licensed to be used within the US, however this remaining ruling means they’re the primary design to get approval for development and operation by utilities. The brand new rule will go into impact on February 21, after which level business purposes for development and operation of NuScale SMRs can start.
Diane Hughes, Nuscale’s VP of promoting and communications, instructed us the approval makes the VOYGR SMR “a near-term deployable answer for patrons.”
The primary VOYGR facility is about to open on the Division of Vitality’s Idaho Nationwide Laboratory in 2029 and can encompass six modules. As a part of the plant, dubbed the Carbon Free Energy Undertaking, will make the most of VOYGR SMRs uprated to provide 77MW as a substitute of the present 50.
Approval for the uprated design is present process the identical approval course of because the licensed design, Hughes mentioned.
A greater, smaller, safer reactor
SMRs have been a scorching subject of dialog for a while, and the designs range significantly. Some go for molten salt as a substitute of water, however that is not the case with NuScale’s VOYGR reactors – they’re all water-cooled, however are nonetheless safer, in response to the NRC’s rule.
Per the rule, NuScale’s design “makes use of a number of first-of-a-kind approaches for undertaking key security features, leading to no want for [emergency diesel generators], no want for pumps to inject water into the core for post-accident coolant injection, and diminished want for management room staffing.”
Regardless of these enhancements, a examine from final yr discovered that the design of SMRs meant they’d essentially produce extra nuclear waste – as much as 35 instances as a lot – and the waste produced could be extra unstable, making dealing with it a a lot larger danger.
Hughes disagreed with the paper’s conclusions after we spoke to her final yr, as did the CEO of Canadian SMR maker Terrestrial Vitality.
Regardless, nuclear power could also be one in all Earth’s solely hopes for reaching carbon neutrality by 2050, the Worldwide Vitality Company (IEA) decided final yr. The IEA sees nuclear as a stop-gap substitute for fossil fuels whereas the transition to renewables proceed, it mentioned.
SMRs may additionally be essential to gas sustainable datacenter development, one other examine discovered just lately. With computing quantity and calls for persevering with to devour extra power, datacenters will hold consuming up fossil fuels whereas ready for renewable initiatives which might be years away whereas that SMR shall be prepared subsequent month. ®