SALT LAKE CITY — An application of nearly 12,000 pages detailing the design of a proposed modular nuclear power plant in southeast Idaho has been submitted to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, completing another step in the regulatory process.
The commission is expected to take several months to determine if any additional information is needed for NuScale Technology's design package — the first small modular reactor project to seek federal approval. A timeline of just under 40 months will roll out for the actual design certification process.
Incorporating zero carbon emissions technology, the project envisions cylindrical modular reactors that are 76 feet by 15 feet, installed underground, each capable of generating up to 50 megawatts of power. Depending on energy needs, there would be anywhere from six to 12 reactors installed at a 35-acre site at the Idaho National Laboratory near Idaho Falls.
The project, buoyed by $250 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Energy, is the only one of its kind to get federal funding from the agency. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz has called the modular reactors the "next generation" in nuclear power technology.
"We are delighted our friends at NuScale have completed this step, which is key to our project licensing and our target commercial operation date of 2026 for the UAMPS Carbon Free Power project," said Doug Hunter, chief executive officer for Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems.
The energy cooperative is a community-owned, nonprofit political subdivision of Utah, with member cities that include Bountiful, Logan, Murray and Blanding.
Hunter has previously said the multibillion dollar project, which is still in the early stages, will have to prove financially feasible for its members, who face volatility in the marketplace because of the increasing pressure on coal and uncertainty over the long-term price of natural gas.
The design application was completed and submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission at the end of 2016 but officially commemorated last week in Washington, D.C.
"We have reached this tremendous milestone through the efforts of more than 800 people over eight years," said Dale Atkinson, NuScale's chief operating officer and chief nuclear officer.
"We have documented, in extensive detail, the design conceived by Dr. Jose Reyes more than a decade ago. We are confident that we have submitted a comprehensive and quality application, and we look forward to working with the (regulatory commission) during its review," Atkinson said.
Reyes, NuScale Power's chief technology officer, is the co-designer of the passively cooled small nuclear reactor — technology initially developed and tested at Oregon State University, where he was head of the Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics.18 comments on this story
The small modular reactors are designed to be self-contained and operate independently within a below-grade, water-filled pool. Hunter has touted the technology because of its lack of moving parts, relying on convection rather than pumps to circulate the water through the reactor.
Beyond the approval of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, project proponents have a number of hurdles they must clear: securing the necessary water, working with community members to address concerns, and satisfying questions over on-site waste disposal.