- As part of a pre-application readiness assessment, staff of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission identified “several challenging and/or significant issues” with the draft application for NuScale Power’s small modular reactor standard design while noting that it’s a work in progress, according to a Nov. 15 letter to the company.
- NuScale officials say they will address the NRC’s comments in the final application which “remains on schedule for submittal this year.” The company is developing a 77-MW reactor and is working with Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems as its anchor customer.
- Some “information needed to evaluate the core design is missing,” the NRC said in its letter. Critics of the Utah project say they expect addressing application deficiencies to cause delays in its rollout.
NRC staff said it identified several items lacking in NuScale's standard design draft application, or SDAA, including fuel loading patterns, peaking factor curves and supporting information for systems related to performance and operability, among others.
“The staff observed and recognized that the NuScale draft SDAA is a work in progress and several chapters are incomplete or have not been updated” since the company uprated its design in 2020, the Nov. 15 letter said.
“The NRC's assessment clearly shows that NuScale's standard design approval draft application for the 77 MWe module is not ready for prime time,” Edwin Lyman, director of nuclear power safety at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in an email. “Of most concern, there is no evidence that NuScale has done the hard work yet to fully evaluate the major safety impacts” of its uprated design, he said.
While Lyman anticipates addressing the application's “gaps and deficiencies will take time and will likely cause a significant delay in the project,” NuScale officials say they remain on schedule.
The NRC staff’s comments are part of the planned pre-submission process, company officials said.
“NuScale requested a readiness assessment of the Standard Design Approval application as it did previously in 2016 prior to the submission of the design certification application,” Diane Hughes, NuScale vice president of marketing and communications, said in a statement. “As part of a planned pre-submission process, NuScale will address NRC comments, as they are made, in the final version of the SDAA.”
The standard design application remains on schedule for submittal this year, Hughes said, “just as the readiness assessment in 2016 did not adversely impact completion of the design certification application.”
“From UAMPS’ perspective, we don’t anticipate delays,” spokesperson LaVarr Webb said in an email.
The Utah project consists of a half dozen 77-MW NuScale reactors, with the first expected online in 2029. Of UAMPS’s 48 members, 27 have signed on to purchase electricity from the advanced nuclear project.
Previous cost estimates were for the project to generate power for $58/MWh, but at least one municipal power provider says project developers now say prices could run $90/MWh to $100/MWh.
Correction: We have clarified that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission identified several issues with the standard design application draft for NuScale Power’s small modular reactor.