U.S. SMR features: The United States is developing advanced nuclear power plants that are 300 MWe or smaller and offer the potential for lower upfront costs, greater scalability and siting flexibility. U.S. vendors of light water-cooled SMR’s include NuScale, Holtec, Westinghouse, and GE-Hitachi. Key benefits of U.S. technologies include:
- Proven technology: Most SMRs are based on light water reactor technology that has a proven track record of over 60 years. By using existing technologies, SMRs reduce first-of-a-kind engineering. SMRs are already commercially available – the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has already given design certification approval for its first SMR design by NuScale.
- Modularity: Modules are factory built and can be delivered by truck or rail to the site in ready-to-install form.
Greater flexibility: Modules enable utilities to correctly size their power plants for current needs, then add capacity as necessary. SMRs can be coupled with other energy sources, e.g. renewables and fossil energy, and industrial processes to produce higher efficiencies and grid stability. SMRs can provide power for applications at sites that lack the infrastructure to support larger units and replace retired fossil plants at current brownfield sites.
- Lower cost and faster to build: Off-site fabrication and assembly reduces construction costs and duration. Simple design eliminates many of the large and complex systems, such as coolant pumps, external steam generator vessels, and large-bore reactor coolant piping.
- Safer: Most SMRs will be built substantially below ground, enhancing safety and security. The reactor operates using natural circulation; hence, no pumps are needed. It safely shuts down and self-cools, indefinitely, with no operator action, no AC or DC power, and no additional water.
U.S. Department of Energy activities: Under an agreement with DOE, NuScale has received over $450M in matching funds to support the accelerated development of its technology and a design certification approval from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). NuScale received design certification approval in September 2020. The first NuScale plant is to be built in the United States and SMR site permitting and licensing efforts are also being supported by DOE at two electricity providers: the Tennessee Valley Authority has submitted an Early Site Permit application to the NRC with the intention to deploy an SMR and the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems is pursuing a license in support of construction of a NuScale SMR at Idaho National Laboratory by 2029.
U.S. SMR applications: U.S. designs support a wide range of energy applications and allow for a high degree of flexibility. In addition to electricity on the grid, they can provide thermal and/or electrical power for desalination, hydrogen production, and other industrial applications. Their scalability makes the technology ideally suited as a replacement for retiring coal-fired plants and their ability to load-follow allows for expanded deployment of renewables without relying on fossil fuels to provide backup.