NuScale Power says study supports plutonium use in its modular reactors

January 20, 2016 08:00 AM Eastern Standard Time

PORTLAND, Ore.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–NuScale Power today announced the completion of a study commissioned from the UK National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) supporting the suitability of NuScale’s world-leading Small Modular Reactor technology for the effective disposition of plutonium.

The study evaluated scenarios with partial and full-core loading of mixed uranium-plutonium oxide (MOX) fuel and confirmed that MOX could be used in the NuScale core with minimal effect on the reactor’s design and operation. The study also demonstrated that a 12-module NuScale plant with 100% MOX cores could consume a 100 metric-ton stockpile of discharged plutonium in roughly 40 years, during which time it would generate approximately 200 million megawatt-hours of carbon free electricity.

The NuScale Power ModuleTM is an innovative and flexible technology with the potential to be fueled by either conventional light water reactor fuel or MOX fuel.

The reprocessing of plutonium into MOX fuel for civil nuclear reactors has been realized in several countries, including France, Japan, Belgium, Switzerland, and Germany. The primary advantage of using MOX fuel is to use the huge energy content of plutonium and to degrade its isotopic composition making it much less attractive from a proliferation viewpoint. It also helps to improve fuel resource utilization by reducing the demand for enriched uranium.

NuScale CEO John Hopkins commented, “This is an important step in the continued development of additional flexibility of the NuScale Power Module to operate on various fuel forms. This capability will help support the continued establishment of the NuScale Small Modular Reactor as the technology of choice for commercialization in worldwide markets.”

Dan Mathers, NNL Business Leader for Fuel and Reactors, said, “The National Nuclear Laboratory has been pleased to work with NuScale on a commercial basis to help demonstrate the capability of their SMR in relation to MOX fuel. Reuse of the plutonium for low carbon power generation could be a valuable way forward for dealing with the UK’s nuclear legacy.”

The UK holds the world’s largest stockpile of civil plutonium material. More than 100 metric tons are managed safely at Sellafield in North West England, but the UK Government has said that this situation needs to be addressed through either re-use or disposal.

One of the options under consideration is AREVA’s Convert proposal, which would reprocess the UK’s stockpile of plutonium into MOX fuel using technology proven over 40 years in France. AREVA has already been working with NuScale, having signed a contract in December 2015 to manufacture conventional fuel assemblies for the NuScale Power Module and provide a variety of engineering and testing services associated with the NuScale design.

About NuScale

NuScale Power, LLC is developing a new kind of nuclear plant; a safer, smaller, scalable version of pressurized water reactor technology, designed with natural safety features; a technology initially developed and tested at Oregon State University. Fluor Corporation (NYSE: FLR), a global engineering, procurement, and construction company with a 60-year history in commercial nuclear power, is the majority investor in NuScale. As the sole winner of the second round of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) competitively-bid, cost-sharing program to develop nuclear small modular reactor (SMR) technology, NuScale’s design offers the benefits of carbon-free nuclear power but takes away the issues presented by the cost of installing large capacity. A nuclear power plant using NuScale’s technology is comprised of individual NuScale Power Modules™, each producing 50 megawatts of electricity (gross) with its own factory-built combined containment vessel and reactor vessel, and its own packaged turbine-generator set. A power plant can include as many as 12 NuScale Power Modules to produce as much as 600 MWe, gross (570 net, nominal, after house loads). The reactor coolant is driven by natural circulation and can be shut down safely with no operator action, no AC or DC power, and no external water supply. NuScale power plants are scalable – additional modules are added as customer demand for electricity increases. NuScale’s technology also is ideally suited to supply energy for district heating, desalination, and other applications. NuScale is headquartered in Portland, Oregon and has offices in Corvallis, OR; Rockville, MD; Charlotte, NC; and Richland, WA. For more information visit: