An artist’s rendering of NuScale Power’s small modular nuclear reactor plant. Photo courtesy of NuScaleUS-based NuScale Power announced on 28 August that the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) had completed Phase 6 review—the last and final phase—of the Design Certification Application (DCA) for its small modular reactor (SMR) with the issuance of the Final Safety Evaluation Report (FSER).

The FSER represents completion of the technical review and approval of the NuScale SMR design. With this final phase of NuScale’s DCA now complete, customers can proceed with plans to develop NuScale power plants with the understanding that the NRC has approved the safety aspects of the NuScale design.

“This is a significant milestone not only for NuScale, but also for the entire US nuclear sector and the other advanced nuclear technologies that will follow,” said NuScale chairman and CEO John Hopkins.

“The approval of NuScale’s design is an incredible accomplishment and we would like to extend our deepest thanks to the NRC for their comprehensive review, to the US Department of Energy (DOE) for its continued commitment to our successful private-public partnership to bring the country’s first SMR to market, and to the many other individuals who have dedicated countless hours to make this extraordinary moment a reality,” he added. “Additionally, the cost-shared funding provided by Congress over the past several years has accelerated NuScale’s advancement through the NRC Design Certification process.”

NuScale’s design certification application was accepted by the NRC in March 2017. NuScale spent over $500 million, with the backing of Fluor, and over 2 million hours to develop the information needed to prepare its DCA application. The company also submitted 14 separate Topical Reports in addition to the over 12,000 pages for its DCA application and provided more than 2 million pages of supporting information for NRC audits.

NuScale’s SMR is a fully factory-fabricated, 60MW power module based on pressurised water reactor technology. The scalable design means a power plant can house up to 12 individual power modules.

The NuScale design is so far the only small modular reactor to undergo a design certification review by the NRC. The design certification process addresses the various safety issues associated with the proposed nuclear power plant design, independent of a specific site and is valid for 15 years from the date of issuance.

NuScale's first customer, Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS), is planning a 12-module SMR plant at a site at the Idaho National Laboratory. Construction was scheduled to start in 2023, with the first module expected to begin operation in 2026. However, UAMPS has informed NuScale it needs to push back the timeline for operation of the first module from 2026 to 2029, the Washington Examiner reported on 24 August.

The NuScale SMR is also undergoing a vendor design review with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. NuScale has signed agreements with entities in the USA, Canada, Romania, the Czech Republic, and Jordan.

Photo: An artist’s rendering of NuScale Power’s small modular nuclear reactor plant. Photo courtesy of NuScale