USA certifies first small modular nuclear reactor

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The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission begins potential cost revolution in nuclear power by registering NuScale Power’s small modular reactor.

Nuclear power has been identified by many countries as a valuable baseload energy for the transition away from fossil fuels. Timeframes and costs, however, make investment in nuclear power politically and economically complex.

While international investment in fusion research continues, this recent decision by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission offers a faster and more efficient opportunity to expand nuclear energy. NuScale’s VOYGR™ SMR power plant can house up to 12 factory-built power modules that are about a third of the size of a large-scale reactor.

Each power module has the potential to produce 50MW and uses natural processes such as convection and gravity to passively cool the reactor without additional water, power, or even operator action. This helps make them more energy efficient and zero-carbon. An uprating application has also been submitted to raise capacity to 77MW per reactor. 

The NuScale’s SMR design is the first approved in the USA, though the company has been working with partners abroad too.

Romania’s RoPower Nuclear S.A. (RoPower), has announced that a contract for Front-End Engineering and Design work has been signed as a step towards building a NuScale VOYGR™ small modular reactor (SMR) power plant at the Doicesti Power Station in Romania. Agreements are in place or being agreed across a dozen other countries too, including Poland, the Czech Republic and Jordan.

NuScale Power president and CEO John Hopkins commented: “The DOE has been an invaluable partner with a shared common goal – to establish an innovative and reliable carbon-free source of energy here in the US. We look forward to continuing our partnership and working with the DOE to bring the UAMPS Carbon Free Power Project to completion.”

US assistant secretary for nuclear energy Dr Kathryn Huff explained: “SMRs are no longer an abstract concept. They are real and they are ready for deployment thanks to the hard work of NuScale, the university community, our national labs, industry partners and the NRC. This is innovation at its finest and we are just getting started here in the US!”