The US Nuclear Regulatory Fee (NRC) has finalized guidelines permitting development of nuclear small modular reactors (SMRs) – the primary time a design has been licensed for commercialization.

The reactor design licensed by the NRC comes from NuScale, which produces modular light-water reactors able to producing 50MW of energy alone, and which will be chained collectively in teams of 4, six or 12.

We beforehand reported on approval of NuScale’s VOYGR SMR by the NRC in August of final 12 months, however at the moment it was unclear when the final rule would seem. The NRC solely stated final 12 months that it had directed employees to get a rule written.

In line with the NRC’s statements in August, NuScale’s SMRs have been the seventh licensed to be used within the US, however this remaining ruling means they’re the primary design to get approval for development and operation by utilities. The brand new rule will go into impact on February 21, after which level business purposes for development and operation of NuScale SMRs can start. 

Diane Hughes, Nuscale’s VP of selling and communications, informed us the approval makes the VOYGR SMR “a near-term deployable resolution for patrons.”

The primary VOYGR facility is ready to open on the Division of Power’s Idaho Nationwide Laboratory in 2029 and can encompass six modules. As a part of the plant, dubbed the Carbon Free Energy Undertaking, will make the most of VOYGR SMRs uprated to supply 77MW as a substitute of the present 50. 

Approval for the uprated design is present process the identical approval course of because the licensed design, Hughes stated. 

A greater, smaller, safer reactor

SMRs have been a hot topic of dialog for a while, and the designs differ drastically. Some go for molten salt as a substitute of water, however that is not the case with NuScale’s VOYGR reactors – they’re all water-cooled, however are nonetheless safer, in response to the NRC’s rule.

Per the rule, NuScale’s design “makes use of a number of first-of-a-kind approaches for carrying out key security capabilities, leading to no want for [emergency diesel generators], no want for pumps to inject water into the core for post-accident coolant injection, and lowered want for management room staffing.”

Regardless of these enhancements, a study from last year discovered that the design of SMRs meant they’d essentially produce extra nuclear waste – as much as 35 instances as a lot – and the waste produced can be extra risky, making dealing with it a a lot better threat.

Hughes disagreed with the paper’s conclusions once we spoke to her final 12 months, as did the CEO of Canadian SMR maker Terrestrial Power. 

Regardless, nuclear vitality could also be one of Earth’s only hopes for reaching carbon neutrality by 2050, the Worldwide Power Company (IEA) decided final 12 months. The IEA sees nuclear as a stop-gap substitute for fossil fuels whereas the transition to renewables proceed, it stated.

SMRs might also be essential to gasoline sustainable datacenter growth, one other examine discovered not too long ago. With computing quantity and calls for persevering with to eat extra vitality, datacenters will preserve consuming up fossil fuels whereas ready for renewable initiatives which might be years away whereas that SMR can be prepared subsequent month. ®


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