NuScale's reactor-in-a-can.
Enlarge / NuScale's reactor-in-a-can.

The NRC announced on Friday that it would be issuing a certification to a new nuclear reactor design, making it the seventh that has been approved for use in the US. The NuScale design is a small modular reactor that can be built at a central facility and then moved to the site where it will be used.

After the final safety evaluation in 2020, the design received an okay.

Large nuclear plants have become exceedingly expensive to build because of a number of problems. They can be assembled on a factory floor and then shipped to the site where they will operate, eliminating many of the challenges of custom, on-site construction. They're structured in a way to allow passive safety, where no operator actions are needed to shut the reactor down if there are problems.

There are many small modular designs that use different technology than traditional ones. NuScale has a more traditional design with fuel and control rods. The reactor is set in a large pool of water, control rods are inserted into the reactor by gravity, and cooling can be done from an external water source.


The certification process was started by Nuscale. The company had to submit technical information that allowed the Commission to evaluate it.

Applications must closely analyze the design's appropriate response to accidents or natural events. Applications must also lay out the inspections, tests, analyses and acceptance criteria that will verify the construction of key design features. In addition, the NRC also requires design certification applicants to assess how the designs protect the reactor and spent fuel pool from the effects of a large commercial aircraft impact.

The design can be used in the US once the certification is published. According to Friday's announcement, the NRC is going to publish.

The NRC has to weigh in on the sites where any of these are put to use. The Carbon Free Power Project will be located at the Idaho National Lab. The project is expected to be operational in the year 2030. The power produced there might be used by utilities, but they are hesitant to give money to the project.