NRC seeking comment on design aspects of mPower reactor

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission plans to take comment until Aug. 16 on its Design-Specific Review Standard (DSRS) for Babcock & Wilcox’s mPower small modular nuclear reactor design.

The purpose of the mPower DSRS is to more fully integrate the use of risk insights into the review of a design certification (DC), an early site permit (ESP) or a combined license (COL) that incorporates the mPower design, the NRC said in a notice to be published in the May 14 Federal Register. The Tennessee Valley Authority is working with B&W on the initial deployment of this technology.

In 2010, the commission provided direction to the staff on the preparation for, and review of, small modular reactor (SMR) applications, with a near-term focus on integral pressurized water reactor (iPWR) designs. The commission directed the staff to more fully integrate the use of risk insights into pre-application work and the review of applications. Consistent with regulatory requirements and NRC policy statements, staff was told to align the review focus and resources to risk-significant structures, systems, and components and other aspects of the design that contribute most to safety in order to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the review process.

The commission directed the staff to develop a design-specific, risk-informed review plan for each SMR design to address pre-application and application review activities. This DSRS for the mPower design is the result of the implementation of the commission’s direction.

The NRC’s Office of New Reactors has issued the mPower Design-Specific Review Standard Scope and Safety Review Matrix to reflect the integration of risk insights into the review of applications submitted for the mPower DC, and ESPs or COLs that incorporate the mPower design.

The NRC wants public comment on the sufficiency of the proposed mPower review scope, and comment on the technical content of the individual mPower DSRS sections that were revised or developed to incorporate design-specific review guidance based on features of the mPower reactor design.

In a December 2012 letter to NRC on the DSRS, the company said: “Babcock & Wilcox mPower, Inc. (B&W) appreciates the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff’s efforts to develop sections of the mPower design-specific review standards (DSRS), and believes these efforts will result in clearer guidance for review of the mPower design certification application (DCA). B&W understands the timing of development of the DSRS sections is predicated in part on ensuring updated guidance is available for use at least six months prior to the docketing of the DCA.”

The letter added: “B&W (and Tennessee Valley Authority as a sub-applicant) was recently selected as the awardee for the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) competitively-bid funding opportunity program for Small Modular Reactor (SMR) Licensing Technical Support. The mPower team is in the process of conducting detailed planning for implementing the mPower goals associated with design and licensing within the context of the DOE program. While detailed results of this planning are not yet available, preliminary results indicate a shift in the DCA submittal date of several months, as compared with the initial, conceptual schedule communicated to the NRC staff.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.