UK-based Ultra Electronics has completed acceptance testing of the power module protection system it is developing for NuScale small modular reactor (SMR). The system is a critical safety component and will be fundamental to the operation of NuScale Power’s SMR technology. Factory acceptance tests were carried out at Ultra’s facility in Dorset earlier in February and were witnessed by representatives from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The tests demonstrated the systems’ ability to handle safety-critical scenarios associated with the operation of NuScale’s SMR technology, and the results will now form part of the NRC’s review of NuScale’s design certification application.
In December 2016, NuScale asked the NRC to review and approve its commercial SMR plant design – the first SMR technology developer to do so. NuScale said the unit will be ready for manufacture and deployment in the US and the UK by the mid-2020s. The first plant has been earmarked for a site at the US Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory.
NuScale’s SMR technology is based on an integral reactor vessel surrounded by a high pressure steel containment, which can produce 50MWe when coupled to its power generation equipment. A NuScale power plant can house up to 12 modules for a total facility output of 600MWe (gross). NuScale said the scalability afforded by the modular design allows customers to incrementally increase facility output to match demand.
In 2015, the UK government promised GBP250m ($312m) over five years for a nuclear research and development programme to “revive the UK’s nuclear expertise and position the UK as a global leader in innovative nuclear technologies”. This includes a competition to identify the most cost-efficient SMR design. Nuscale was one of a number of companies which has submitted design proposals.
The winner of the design competition is expected to begin the UK’s Generic Design Approval process around 2017 and approval could be completed by early 2020s. Following site approval and a power purchase agreement, a final investment decision for the first SMR plant could be made around 2022 and the plant could be online in 2028. During summer 2016, UK government officials held meetings with 32 eligible participants for phase one of the competition.