Small nuclear reactor design submitted for federal approval

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — An Oregon company has asked federal officials to approve its design for a small commercial nuclear reactor that a Utah energy cooperative wants to build in Idaho.

NuScale Power delivered a 12,000-page application last week to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the modular reactor, starting a review process expected to take more than three years, the company said in a statement.

It said it’s the first such commercial design submitted to the commission.

“We are confident that we have submitted a comprehensive and quality application, and we look forward to working with the NRC during its review,” said Dale Atkinson, chief operating officer and chief nuclear officer at NuScale.

In August, Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems identified a 35-acre site at an 890-square-mile U.S. Department of Energy site in eastern Idaho where it hopes to build the reactor capable of producing 50 megawatts.

Officials said as many as 12 reactors could be built to produce a total of 600 megawatts of power.

The Energy Department site also contains Idaho National Laboratory, considered the nation’s leading nuclear research lab. The reactor would be owned by the energy cooperative and operated by Energy Northwest.

Experts say the reactors are designed to be safer than conventional nuclear plants by being able to shut down without human involvement.

The cooperative has said nuclear waste from small reactors could be stored at the site in protective casings that can withstand earthquakes.

The cost for 12 small modular reactors would be about $3 billion, NuScale has said, compared with about $15 billion for a conventional nuclear plant. Part of the cost savings comes from building the modular reactors at a factory and then trucking them to their locations.

Along with licensing by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, an environmental analysis would be needed before a small reactor could be built. If everything moves forward, officials say reactors could be up and running by 2024.

A Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems spokesman didn’t immediately return a call Tuesday.

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