NuScale ready to submit reactor design to NRC

NuScale Power Chief Commercial Officer Mike McGough shows a model of the NuScale small nuclear reactor project at the Intermountain Energy Summit in August.

Editor’s note: Due to an event announcement error, the name of a featured speaker at a NuScale Power event was incorrect. Lynn Orr is the speaker.

NuScale Power is a step closer to seeing its nuclear reactor built in eastern Idaho after completing a 12,000-page design application for federal regulators last month.

NuScale executives plan to deliver the document describing the first-of-its-kind small modular reactor design to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Thursday in Washington, D.C. Several companies have researched small modular reactors, but none has made it so far in the expensive planning and testing process — and none has submitted a design to the NRC.

Company officials plan a formal announcement of the milestone later Thursday in the capital. Lynn Orr, undersecretary for science and energy, is scheduled to speak.

“Most of the people in the industry didn’t believe we’d get it done,” Mike McGough, NuScale’s chief commercial officer said, in a Monday interview. “Sometimes we weren’t sure we would, either.”

The power plant is expected to be located on the U.S. Department of Energy’s desert site, south of the U.S. Highway 20 and 26 junction. Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems plans to build the facility and use the power for its community-owned member utilities, which include Idaho Falls. The design generates less power but is thought to be safer and more flexible than traditional light water reactors.

McGough said finishing the document is the biggest accomplishment for the company since winning $217 million in matching funds from the DOE in 2013 to accelerate the reactor’s development.

Under the agreement with the DOE, NuScale was to finalize the design application and submit it to the NRC by late 2016. Though it hasn’t yet turned it over, the Oregon-based company did finish the document just in time, by holding a last-minute afternoon meeting Dec. 31 and signing it just before midnight, McGough said. The NRC application review process is expected to take more than three years and cost NuScale $45 million.

The document cost tens of millions of dollars to produce and included paying NRC officials $258 per hour to review and provide feedback at various stages of completion, McGough said. NuScale took out an NRC “project number” — indicating it wanted to move forward with the regulatory design certification process — in 2008. Some 800 people from NuScale and its partners pitched in along the way.

“It was a herculean task,” McGough said.

Luke Ramseth can be reached at 542-6763. Twitter: @lramseth