In the past month, several guest columns published in the Post Register have taken issue with the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems’ Carbon Free Power Project, which will use small modular reactor technology developed by NuScale Power. With a combined 43 years of experience at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Department of Energy between the two of us, we want to offer some clarification to help set the record straight.
Those who claim that safety issues “have yet to be (remedied)” by the U.S Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the NRC Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards clearly misunderstand how the regulatory process works. The NRC design certification review is arguably the most comprehensive nuclear reactor review in the world.
In the case of NuScale’s technology, NRC safety experts spent more than a quarter-million hours in six progressive phases to review the NuScale design certification application (DCA), which included roughly 12,000 pages of design information and safety analyses. This 42-month NRC review process was supported by nearly 2 million pages of additional technical information submitted by NuScale, along with comprehensive audits of NuScale testing and quality assurance programs.
The NRC review was not only extremely comprehensive — it was also highly transparent. The NRC published the complete DCA on its Agencywide Documents Access and Management System public website and also issued public reports on each element of the review process (several thousand), including the robust discussion between NuScale engineers and NRC staff and among NRC staff themselves.
The NRC’s issuance of the final safety evaluation report for NuScale’s small modular reactor means that issues and questions related to the safety of NuScale’s design have been resolved and affirms that the technology meets the United States’ highest nuclear regulatory requirements. As former senior members of the regulatory bodies responsible for these types of review, we can assure the Post Register’s readers that the NRC would not have issued NuScale’s approval if it did not have every assurance the technology was safe.
Not to mention, the Department of Energy, through its Small Modular Reactor Licensing Technical Support Program, has supported NuScale financially and otherwise to create a successful private-public partnership to help get this first-of-a-kind design, development and testing work completed on schedule and on budget, further demonstrating the trust the U.S. government has in the viability and promise of this technology.
The reality is that small, safe and flexible nuclear power plants are critical in achieving zero-carbon goals in the UAMPS region and across the country. Small modular reactors offer the opportunity to repurpose coal-fired power plants while creating new jobs. They also offer load-following capabilities that will complement renewables, thereby supporting a balanced, reliable grid to accelerate the transition to clean energy.
We recognize that it can be challenging to see the long-term potential of projects like the CFPP, but we are confident in its ability to bring safe, cost-effective, carbon-free energy to your doorstep. As our energy system ages and climate change increasingly affects our lives, we urge you to welcome this innovative solution.