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1st small modular nuclear reactor certified for use in the US

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The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission has certified the design of what will be the first small modular nuclear reactor in the United States.

The rule certifying the project was published Thursday in the Federal Register. That means companies looking to build and operate a nuclear power plant can choose the 50-megawatt advanced modular light-water nuclear reactor design from Oregon-based NuScale Power and apply for a permit from the NRC.

It is the final determination that the design is acceptable for use, so it cannot be legally challenged during the permitting process when someone applies to build and operate a nuclear power plant, NRC spokesman Scott Burnell said Friday. fair. The rule takes effect at the end of February.

The US Department of Energy said the newly approved bill “equips the nation with a new source of clean energy to help reduce” planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

It is the seventh nuclear reactor design cleared for use in the United States. The remainder is for large, traditional light water reactors.

Diane Hughes, NuScale’s vice president of marketing and communications, said the design certification is a historic step toward a clean energy future and makes the company’s VOYGR power plant a near-term deployable solution for customers. The first small modular reactor design application package included more than 2 million pages of background materials, added Hughes.

However, David Schlissel of the Ohio-based Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis expressed concern about the costs. Schlissel, who has studied the history of the nuclear power industry and the finances of the NuScale project, expects them to continue to rise, which could limit how many NuScale reactors are built. He said he thinks they are not price-competitive with renewables and battery storage.

Hughes said that from wind and solar to hydrogen and nuclear, energy projects have seen cost increases due to changing financial market dynamics, rising interest rates and inflationary pressures in the industry’s supply chain that have not been seen for a while. decades. NuScale’s VOYGR power plant remains a cost-competitive source of reliable, affordable and carbon-free power, she added.

For many, nuclear power is emerging as an answer as states and countries move away from coal, oil and natural gas to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avoid the worst effects of a warming planet.

About 40 serious concepts are under development for the next generation of advanced nuclear reactors around the world. China was the first to connect a state-of-the-art reactor to its grid to produce around 200 megawatts of electricity. A high-temperature gas-cooled reactor started operating in 2021.

The U.S. Department of Energy said it has provided more than $600 million since 2014 to support the design, permitting and location of NuScale’s VOYGR modular small reactor plant and other domestic small reactor concepts. The department is working with Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems to demonstrate a six-module NuScale VOYGR plant at the Idaho National Laboratory. The first module is expected to be operational in 2029.

NuScale has signed 19 agreements in the US and internationally to deploy its small reactor technology. Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Kathryn Huff said small modular reactors are no longer an abstract concept.

“They are real and ready for deployment thanks to the hard work of NuScale, the academic community, our national labs, industry partners and the NRC,” Huff said in a statement. “This is innovation at its best and we are just getting started here in the USA”

NuScale has also applied to the NRC for approval of a larger design, at 77 megawatts per module, and the agency is verifying that the application is complete before starting a full review, Burnell said.