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NuScale and Rolls-Royce take forward small modular nuclear reactor (SMR) plans

16 January 2017

NuScale Power has asked the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to approve the company's small modular reactor (SMR) commercial power plant design, the first time an SMR design certification application has been submitted to the NRC. And in the UK, Rolls-Royce has announced the industrial partners with whom it plans to take forward its own SMR plans.

NuScale experimental reactor - Image: NuScale Power
NuScale experimental reactor - Image: NuScale Power

The Portland, Oregon-based company said that, once approved, global demand for its plants will create thousands of jobs during manufacturing, construction and operation, and "re-establish US global leadership in nuclear technology", paving the way for NRC approval and subsequent deployment of other advanced nuclear technologies. Conservative estimates predict about 55-75 GWe of global electricity will come from SMRs by 2035, equivalent to over 1000 NuScale Power Modules, it added.

The first commercial 12-module NuScale power plant is planned to be built on the site of the Idaho National Laboratory (INL). It will be owned by the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) and operated by Energy Northwest.

The NuScale SMR consists of integrated pressurized water reactor modules, designed on the light water reactor technology that has safely operated worldwide for the past 70 years. When coupled to its factory fabricated power generation equipment, a NuScale Power Module can produce 50 MW of electricity. A NuScale power plant can house up to 12 of these modules for a total facility output of 600 MW (gross).

It also has unique safety characteristics: under abnormal conditions, the reactor can shut itself down and cool itself for indefinite periods without the need for human intervention, water addition or external electricity supplies.

NuScale has been working on its SMR design for more than ten years, with initial development and testing at Oregon State University. In 2011, the global engineering, procurement and construction firm Fluor Corp became the majority investor in NuScale.

Meanwhile, Rolls-Royce has named the companies it is working with to bring a small modular reactor (SMR) to market in the UK. Amec Foster Wheeler, Nuvia and Arup, together with the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, are working with Rolls-Royce to develop the latest technology reactors, a spokesman for the British engineering firm told World Nuclear News.

In October last year, Rolls-Royce said a UK SMR could provide a £100 billion ($127 billion) boost to the UK economy between 2030 and 2050 because the companies involved are either UK-owned or have a strong UK presence. The latest announcement comes as British ministers are looking to support the development of SMRs and civil nuclear innovation, with up to £250 million in funding, and also to publish a green paper on Industrial Strategy later this month.

In November 2015, the British government announced plans to invest at least £250 million over the next five years in a nuclear research and development program including a competition to identify the best value SMR design for the UK.

Rolls-Royce submitted a paper to the UK Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, outlining its plan to develop a fleet of 7 GWe of SMRs with its partners.

Other participants in the UK's SMR competition include French-owned EDF Energy and its Chinese partner CNNC, Westinghouse and US developer NuScale Power.

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