Small Modular Reactors: Pint-Sized Performers Add to Long-Term Nuclear Solution

Pint-sized performer promises power made to measure.


STT promotes nuclear power because it works: safe, affordable and reliable it’s the perfect foil for those obsessed about carbon dioxide gas – because it doesn’t generate any, while generating power on demand.

One of the feeble ‘arguments’ against it, is that nuclear power plants are of such vast scale that they take longer to build than the pyramids of Giza, and cost twice as much.

This article from Forbes suggests otherwise.

NuScale’s Small Modular Nuclear Reactor Passes Biggest Hurdle Yet
James Conca
15 May 2018

NuScale Power is on track to build the first small modular nuclear reactor in America faster than expected.

Two weeks ago, NuScale’s small modular nuclear reactor design completed the Phase 1 review of its design certification application (DCA) by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. That’s a huge deal because Phase 1 is the most intensive phase of the review, taking more hours and effort than the remaining five phases combined.

The NRC’s review of NuScale’s DCA only began in March 2017 and the NRC’s final report approving the design is expected to be complete by September 2020. NuScale is the first and only SMR to ever undergo an NRC review. After sailing through Phase 1 so quickly, the company really is on track to build the first SMR in America within the next few years.

The first customer is certainly ready. Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) will own the first NuScale plant, a 12-module SMR, and place it at the Idaho National Laboratory. It will be operated by the experienced nuclear operator Energy Northwest.

‘We are thankful for the rigorous review of our revolutionary nuclear design and greatly appreciate the government recognizing the importance of furthering NuScale’s advancement,’ said NuScale Power Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Hopkins. ‘Our technology means significant economic and job benefits for the country and it’s positioned to revitalize the domestic nuclear industry by virtue of NuScale’s affordable, flexible, and safe solution to providing zero-carbon energy.’

NuScale’s reactor is also America’s best chance to compete in the global SMR market as it gets started, and puts the U.S. on a path to beat foreign competitors like Argentina, China, Russia and South Korea who are developing their own SMR designs. Conservative estimates predict between 55 and 75 GW of electricity will come from operating SMRs around the world by 2035, the equivalent of more than 1,000 NuScale Power Modules, and will bring the market up towards a trillion dollars.

And America should lead that effort.

The U.S. Department of Energy agrees and, on April 27th, awarded NuScale Power $40 million in cost-sharing financial assistance to support bringing this SMR to market. NuScale is the only SMR selected for this award with a solid plan, backed up by design, testing, licensing, and commercialization sufficiently substantive to achieve commercial operations in the 2020s.

SMR developers expect modular designs and construction processes will generate economies of series and open up multiple supply opportunities. NuScale has estimated its first plant will cost just under $3 billion to build, giving an overnight capital cost of $5,078/kWe.

But the real power of SMRs are the fact that they can’t melt down. This is a big deal. It means the reactor just won’t melt down or otherwise cause any of the nightmares people think about when imagining the worse for nuclear power.

It just shuts down and cools off.

The brain-child of Dr. Jose Reyes, NuScale’s Chief Technology Officer and nuclear engineering professor emeritus at Oregon State University, this modular reactor takes advantage of the small in small modular. The small size and large surface area-to-volume ratio of NuScale’s reactor core, that sits below ground in a super seismic-resistant heat sink, allows natural processes to cool it indefinitely in the case of complete power blackout.

No humans or computers are needed to intervene, no AC or DC power, no pumps, and no additional water for cooling.

The first Small Modular Reactor company to file a license application to NRC, NuScale’s Power Module small size, with its large surface-area-to-volume ratio, prevents any kind of meltdown. If power goes out, the reactor cools over 90% of the heat in the first day by water convection, then 90% of the remaining heat by boiling off the water, then it’s cool enough to slowly bleed what little heat is left off to the surroundings for as long as needed.

A couple of additional features are: 1) no one can hack this reactor and 2) refueling of this reactor does not require the nuclear plant to shut down.

The components of the NuScale reactor can all be manufactured in a factory prior to shipping and assembly at the site, removing a major cost issue with building new nuclear plants. The reactor vessels and other large components can be manufactured with medium-sized forges, something we still have here in the United States. Traditional large reactors need extremely large forging facilities, of which only a few exist in the world – none in America.

Traditional nuclear reactors are between about 600 and 1,200 MW, but these small power modules are about 50 MW each and 12 of them can be put together to make a power plant up to 600 MW – a 12-pack.

These modules use standard 17×17 PWR fuel assemblies, also making them cost-effective, at only half the height, with an average U-235 enrichment of 3.8%. A single NuScale nuclear power module is 76-feet tall and 15-feet in diameter, and would sit in a plant covering less than a tenth of a square mile or about 60 acres.

In comparison, it takes at least 130,000 acres, or about 200 square miles, of wind farms to produce the same amount of energy as one NuScale 12-pack is designed to.

These innovative designs bring the total life-cycle cost to produce electricity with this SMR to below that of most other energy sources, just slightly above hydro and natural gas. This SMR can also be constructed in about half the time of traditional nuclear plants.

It‘s possible to see all of the application documents for the NuScale design at NRC, and one can see the actual criteria for the DOE award as well, noting that DOE wanted projects focused on the development of ‘industry-driven reactor designs and accompanying technologies with high potential to advance nuclear power in the USA.’

NuScale is headquartered in Portland, Oregon and has offices in Corvallis, Or, Rockville, Md, Charlotte, N.C., Richland, WA, Arlington, Va., and London, UK.

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.


  1. singletonengineer says:

    @ Terry C:
    “…how do we overcome the ban on nuclear in our current [Australian] parliaments?”

    That process may have already started by some senior members of the Nationals, such as John Barilaro (Leader of the Nationals in NSW Upper House), who has for more than a year been pushing for just such a discussion. Agreed, the road ahead will not be easy, but if the Commonwealth Government can make laws, then that same government can rescind them.

    John B traveled to USA and studied the prospects in detail and has clearly assembled a team of advisors – he appears to be serious.

    But first, there must be the discussion.

    NB I am not a Nationals party member or supporter, but I am certainly attracted to a bit of rational decision-making for a change. Here’s hoping!

    See, for example,

  2. Nuclear generation and in fact the development of a world class top to bottom nuclear industry including mining, processing, enrichment, power generation and waste storage is a no-brainer for a uranium rich, rust bucket, power crippled state like South Australia. However nuclear generation presently doesn’t make economic sense in states well endowed with extensive, easily exploited low cost coal, such as Queensland, NSW, Victoria and WA, that is of course unless the governments of those states are really fair dinkum in their “climate change” hand-wringing?

    • The economic case for nuclear need only assume a tax on CO2 gas or equivalent subsidy to CO2 emissions free generation sources. With governments likely to pander to the unhinged green left for the foreseeable future, that’s a pretty safe assumption. On that basis, the case for nuclear makes itself.

  3. Terry Conn says:

    I agree, along with numerous other Australians, with STT’s position on nuclear power – but, how do we overcome the ban on nuclear in our current parliaments?

    • Paul Dodgshun says:

      Right question Terry. What would be needed is a smaller modular reactor that produces no nuclear waste or nuclear radiation but has nuclear reactor levels of power density and endurance.

      Consider the following :
      Naturtal Lithium contains 92.58% Li7 and 7.42% Li 6.
      The nuclear fusion of Aluminium(Al27) with itself forms Iron(Fe54) with the release of 21.84MeV of energy.
      The nuclear fusion of Fe54 with Li7 forms Nickel(Ni60) plus a proton with the release of 15.85MeV.
      The Nickel isotopes 58,60,61 and 64 convert to Ni62 with energy releases of a few MeV.

      The end result is that the assay of the used fuel shows high percentages of Li6, no Al and high Ni62. The new fuel is Lithium Aluminium Hydride (LiAlH4). There is no nuclear radioactive waste or nuclear radiation from this process. A 1MW reactor ran for a year but development has stopped in favour of a smaller reactor called a QX with a current research variant dubbed SK.

      To answer your question with a question: Why ‘overcome the ban on nuclear’, just avoid it by not making nuclear waste or radiation, whilst collecting the subsidy for not making CO2? It would be end for intermittent unreliables.

  4. mikeo28 says:

    I would think that this development will send the environmental lobby crazy. Particularly here in Australia. But you must remember that anything that works for civilisation cannot be Green.

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