NuScale develops new micro reactor designs in fresh SMR push

SMR developer NuScale is developing two different micro reactor designs, targeting industry and remote customers with faster deployment and longer fuel cycles, Tom Mundy, Chief Commercial Officer of NuScale Power, told the International SMR and Advanced Reactor Summit.

NuScale's pioneering 720 MW small modular reactor project in Idaho is set to establish SMR technology in the commercial power sector and open up new opportunities for developers.

NuScale plans to deliver the U.S.' first commercial SMR plant to power cooperative Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) by 2026-27. The plant will consist of 12 light water reactor modules of capacity 60 MW and will be built on an Idaho National Laboratory (INL) site.

In December, INL agreed to use two of the modules to test and optimise revenue streams from non-electricity applications, providing valuable data on wider SMR deployment potential.

NuScale is on schedule to receive design licence approval by September 2020 and the company is now looking to expand its SMR design portfolio to access new markets.

NuScale is developing the conceptual design for a 10 to 50 MW micro NuScale power module and a smaller 1 to 10 MW heat pipe reactor, Tom Mundy, Chief Commercial Officer of NuScale Power, told the conference in Atlanta on April 2.

The micro NuScale power module design is "more developed," than the heat pipe reactor and builds on the SMR technology being deployed at the UAMPS project, Mundy said.

The micro reactor would be targeted at small power grids, remote and off-grid communities, off-grid industrial facilities including mining sites, and military installations.

Applications for the heat pipe reactor would include remote off-grid communities with seasonal fuel delivery challenges, remote mining operations with shorter lifespans, temporary power for disaster relief and even space travel.

"We have a significant body of [intellectual property] that can be applied in our R&D organisation...we will be announcing more information on [these micro-reactor concepts] in the near-term," Mundy said.

Faster build

NuScale's announcement comes as a wide range of SMR developers look to enter the U.S. and Canada nuclear markets, offering a range of technologies and sizes for different applications.

Smaller plants require less capex, reduce construction times and improve transport efficiency, making them an ideal fit for industrial and remote applications.

NuScale’s micro design aims to minimize construction times, simplify operations and increase fuel cycle length, Mundy said.

"It builds upon the principles of passive safety, higher reliability and simplicity...we're talking about longer refuelling cycles...less operators, lower O&M [costs],…" he said.

The capacity of the plant will depend on the size of the module and core loading, Mundy said.

The heat pipe reactor features a compact design that requires minimal site infrastructure, can be rapidly deployed and is fully automated during operations, he said.

Canada growth

In Canada, the development of micro SMRs is already progressing at a pace.

Last month, micro reactor developer Global First Power (GFP) submitted Canada's first small modular reactor (SMR) project licence application to build a plant at the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) Chalk River site, GFP announced April 1.

GFP is developing a 5 MWe high-temperature gas-cooled reactor designed by U.S. group Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC). In February, GFP became the first SMR developer to advance to the third phase of Canada's selection process to build a full-scale demonstration plant by 2026.

Canada's large mining sector is seen as a key early market for SMR plants. Off grid power demand is typically provided by expensive subsidized diesel-fired plants, presenting an opportunity for cost-efficient zero-carbon generation. In some northern locations, fuel transport issues can raise electricity prices to several hundreds of Canadian dollars per MWh.

Last November, NuScale signed development agreements with Canadian nuclear utilities Bruce Power and Ontario Power Generation (OPG) to support the deployment of its SMR design in Canada.

NuScale plans to formally enter the CNSC’s pre-licensing vendor design review (VDR) program “later this year," Mundy told the conference.

"The Canadian market is showing significant opportunity with strong interest from both the government and customers," Mundy said.

Nuclear Energy Insider