NRC planning to deal with small reactor proposals from TVA, UAMPS

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) can expect the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) to come before NRC during the next couple of years to pursue plans for potential small modular reactors (SMRs), NRC staff told the commission Sept. 24.

Those are a couple of the take-aways from the staff briefing on new reactor development.

UAMPS is expected to file a license proposal in 2017 to develop a SMR using NuScale Power technology at a site in the UAMPS service territory.

Not so long ago, TVA appeared destined to be the first utility in the United States to install a small modular reactor. But the vendor TVA was working with, Babcock & Wilcox’s mPower affiliate de-emphasized its SMR program after having a tough time attracting SMR investors.

TVA is now planning to file an Early Site Permit (ESP) application with NRC for its Clinch River site in Tennessee. “This will allow us to take advantage of all of the site characterization work we’ve already completed without having to have a specific reactor design in place,” a TVA spokesperson told GenerationHub. “We will use a generic plant envelope, which is a set of data that is broad enough to accommodate all of the currently proposed SMR designs,” the TVA representative said.

“Once a design is certified and TVA’s board of directors approves proceeding with the project, we can then come back to the NRC with a Construction and Operating License Application (COLA) that will then be specific to the selected plant design,” the TVA representative said.

NRC staff told the commissioners that there are a number of issues to be hashed out regarding potential licensing of the mini-reactors. This includes issues ranging from factories where “modular” reactors made to control room operation to how these units might be treated under Price-Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act, which governs liability-related issues for U.S. reactors.

In addition, NRC staff said to expect an early site permit from Blue Castle Holdings, which hopes to develop a nuclear plant in Utah.

Currently, NRC is monitoring construction of four new nuclear units being built at the Southern (NYSE:SO) Vogtle station in Georgia and the SCANA (NYSE:SCG) V.C. Summer complex in South Carolina.

Steam generator construction should occur at the new Vogtle and Summer units in 2016, said Laura Dudes the deputy regional administrator for construction in the agency’s Region II office in Atlanta.

Meanwhile, NRC officials have also been keeping track of the new Sanmen plant under construction in China. Like the new Vogtle and Summer units, Sanmen utilizes the Westinghouse AP1000 reactor design.  

In addition, NRC this year issued a construction and operating license for the DTE Energy (NYSE:DTE) Fermi 3 nuclear project in Michigan. DTE is holding that license to keep its nuclear construction option viable in the future.

Other combined construction and operating license applications are in the NRC pipeline, officials said.

The Sept. 24 meeting marked the final regular NRC meeting for Executive Director of Operations Mark Satorius, who is retiring. Satorius is being succeeded by Victor M. McCree, the Regional Administrator in the NRC’s Atlanta-based office.

Satorius drew praise from NRC Chairman Stephen Burns and other members of the commission.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.