Rendering of 6-unit NuScale VOYGR SMR plant.

Utah NuScale Nuclear Plant Project Canceled Due To Lack Of Interest From Utilities

Intended to be the first 6-unit deployment of NuScale’s 77 MW VOYGR small modular reactors (SMRs), the Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP) in Utah was scheduled to begin construction by 2025 on the grounds of the Idaho National Laboratory (INL), yet it has now been canceled by NuScale (press release) after not finding enough utilities interested in purchasing power from the nuclear plant. This led NuScale and UAMPS (Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems) to back out of the CFPP project.

To be clear, it seems this decision neither reflects on SMRs as a whole, nor NuScale’s prospects. Currently NuScale still has a number of projects which it is involved in, including the use of its SMR technology with the Polish copper and silver producer KGHM Polska Miedź SA. Demand for SMRs is also being flooded with various designs by both established and start-up companies, with TerraPower’s Natrium reactor seeing additional demand, including at the Kemmerer site in Wyoming.

Meanwhile, the European Commission is establishing an SMR Industrial Alliance, and countries like Norway are looking to build their first nuclear plants using SMRs, which includes Danish Seaborg’s molten salt reactor. In the end it should be clear that whether a singular infrastructure project works out economically or not depends on many factors. This can also be seen with e.g. wind farm projects, where Danish Ørsted canceled two large US offshore wind projects, Swedish Vattenfall abandoned its new British offshore wind project due to rising costs and Siemens Energy is having to borrow billions of Euros to patch up financial holes in its Spanish wind turbine unit.

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Certifying Nuclear Reactors: How The NRC Approved Its First Small Modular Reactor Design

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) recently announced that it had approved certification of NuScale’s SMR (small modular reactor) design, completing its Phase 6 review of NuScale’s Design Certification Application (DCA). What this means is that SMRs using NuScale’s reactor design can legally be constructed within the US as soon as the rulemaking process completes. An NRC certification would also mean that certification of the design in other countries should pose no significant hurdles.

A question that remains unanswered at this point for most is how this certification process at the NRC actually works. Are there departments full of engineers at the NRC who have been twiddling their thumbs for the past decades while the US nuclear industry has been languishing? What was in the literally millions of documents that NuScale had to send to the NRC as part of the certification process, and what exactly are these six phases?

Stay tuned for a crash course in nuclear reactor certification, after a bit of SMR history.

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