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NuScale, NRC tackle key SMR design certification points ahead of 2016 filing
More than 600 employees and contractors are now engaged in a "gigantic" project to complete the design and certification process for NuScale's first plant to be constructed for the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) and operated by Energy Northwest, at a location to be determined.
That location is likely to be in Idaho, possibly on the Idaho National Laboratory site.
The company is also in the final stages of commissioning the rebuilt NuScale Integrated System Test (NIST) facility, the one-third scale prototype that first went into operation back in 2003 and has recently undergone significant enhancements to include over 700 instruments to monitor and record testing data as part of the design certification process.
But it is the challenge of meeting the requirements of US regulators that is pre-occupying the NuScale team.
"There is a tremendous amount of work that has to be completed," said Mike McGough, NuScale's Chief Commercial Officer. "We are very actively engaged with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to ensure that we have a clear understanding of what their expectations are of what our design certification application will look like."
In response to an NRC letter in June, NuScale told the US regulators that the DC application submittal date would be between October 31-December 31 next year, while UAMPS identified the last quarter of 2017 or the first quarter of 2018 as the window for submitting a Combined Operating License Application (COLA).
"Those dates are important milestones that, of course, are predecessor events leading up to the construction and operation of the first NuScale project for UAMPS," said Mr McGough.
"So up to now we have made 48 presentations to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and we have 45 additional planned and scheduled engagements with them that will review those types of details.
"We are submitting 17 additional topical reports to the NRC. A topical report is basically a formal stand-alone licensing submittal that results in the NRC providing a safety evaluation report.
"So those topical reports are very critical - sort of subsets of our design certification application. We meet with the NRC New Reactors Office every week to review and plan and schedule the efforts leading up to that certification application submittal late next year.”
The scale of the "gigantic schedule" NuScale is facing is illustrated by the fact that it has around 9,000 line items in it, with many of the critical path items changing every day.
Additionally, supporting the design certification application will be a 12,000-page document describing how the plant is designed and will operate. "But the NRC doesn’t just accept our mathematical modeling, they want to know the results of physical testing," said Mr McGough.
"So our design cert application must show not just the calculations about how the plant will work, but it must be backed up by results of physical testing; that’s what the prototype does."
Progress is being made, however. In June, the NRC issued the NuScale Design Specific Review Standard - basically, a "guideline of understanding" between the regulator and the applicant
Such progress was almost unimaginable not so long ago. Looking back just four years, Mr McGough admitted there was reluctance by suppliers to sell their goods or services to NuScale because of its uncertain future and lack of financial backing.
That all changed in late 2011 when Fluor stepped in. "To make a major investment in a company like ours is a validation of what we’re doing, from the perspective of a company that hopes to be the worldwide constructor of NuScale plants," Mr McGough said.
"So that was the first step, I think, that probably put a jolt into the supply chain and got attention from some major suppliers that we might not have received attention from before."
Now, after winning the Department of Energy FOA competition, NuScale is the sole remaining US developer of small modular reactors receiving nearly a quarter billion dollars of DoE matching funds.
Last year, NuScale held its first ever supplier day event. The company thought 20 or 30 people might show up. In fact, 137 people representing over 80 companies from five countries arrived in Idaho Falls for the event. Indeed in August they will be hosting their first NuEx Exposition to demonstrate their progress, while also bringing together senior Department of Energy Representatives, elected officials and key industry suppliers.
Looking to the future, Mr McGough said: "We’ve recently signed a major contract with Areva for fuel design; we are opening an office in Richland, Washington, where some of that work will take place. As you know we opened a major office in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Rockville, Maryland. We have expanded the reach of the company.
"We think there is a real opportunity in the US domestic market and there are similar pockets of opportunity internationally in places like the UK and China, some places in Latin America perhaps and the Middle East and elsewhere in Asia.
"That’s why we’re working as hard as we are to complete the design certification and to be prepared to meet the demand we see exists for our product."