January has already proven an eventful month for developers of small modular reactors (SMRs) and non-light water (i.e., advanced) reactors.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is finally starting to see significant movement in regards to SMRs. NuScale’s January 12 submission of its design certification application for a 50 MWe SMR design garnered significant news attention. Also of note, on the same day the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA’s) early site permit application for a SMR power plant at Clinch River, Tennessee was docketed by the NRC.
For advanced nuclear reactors, earlier this month the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act was introduced in the House and Senate to spur technology development related to advanced reactors. The companion bills, H.R.431 and S.97, were introduced by Representative Randy Weber and Senator Mike Crapo and have bipartisan support. Although the text is not publicly available yet, in a press release from the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, Randy Weber stated that “[t]his legislation requires the Department of Energy to prioritize its R&D infrastructure on capabilities that will enable the private sector to develop advanced reactor technologies.”
Separate legislation geared towards improving the regulatory framework for advanced reactors progressed in Congress in 2016, but has since been dormant during the political transition (a detailed entry discussing this legislation is available here). If one or both of these efforts is able to move forward this year, it could prove very helpful to the advanced reactor community.