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The United States licensed the first nuclear reactor of a new type - small and modular.
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has released the final package of regulations required to license the construction and operation of NuScale Power's Small Modular Reactor (SMR). This is the seventh reactor design in US nuclear power history and the first small modular reactor to be approved by the regulator for use in the country. But the very first NuScale reactor in the world may appear in Poland.
The NRC accepted NuScale's application for certification of a nuclear power plant project with up to twelve modules with a capacity of 50 MWe each in March 2018. Subsequently, the base power of each module was increased to 77 MWe. The regulator released the final technical review of the project in August 2020. In July 2022, the NRC Commission voted to certify the project. The full design documentation of the project was completed at the end of last year. The regulator has now completed the licensing of the plant, which will allow the small modular reactor to be included in the national register of facilities approved for construction and operation. The decision comes into force on February 21.
Project licensing means that any utility in the US that wishes to build a NuScale nuclear power plant can obtain a combined license to build and operate the facility. The customer will only need to license the site chosen for this.
Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) is going to build the first six-module NuScale nuclear power plant in the United States. The nuclear power plant will be built on site at the Idaho National Laboratory as a demonstration plant. UAMPS plans to apply for a combined license with the NRC in the first quarter of 2024, the first station module will be in operation by 2029, and the station will start full operation in 2030 (two to three years later than previously announced plans).
It may well be that the world's first NuScale Power Small Modular Reactor starts operating outside of the US. Previously, the company entered into agreements on the deployment of SMR installations in countries such as Ukraine, Poland, Romania, the Czech Republic and Jordan. Moreover, a final agreement has been concluded with the Polish copper and silver supplier KGHM Polska Miedź SA, which provides for the launch of the reactor in Poland as early as 2029.
The NuScale VOYGR reactor is not a revolutionary product. It uses the same operating principles as large reactors. It has a conventional system of fuel assemblies, pressurized water and gas turbines (generators). What's new is that the reactor and most of the circuits are almost finished at the factory. This greatly speeds up the completion of projects and makes them less expensive. There are fears that such an approach would increase the volume of nuclear waste by up to 35 times, but this will be offset by the generation of ever larger volumes of clean electricity, which nuclear power has temporarily been equated with.