|Nuclear Reactors: Status and Challenges in Development and Deployment of New Commercial Concepts
In the United States, four light water small modular reactors (SMRs)—nuclear power reactors with a generating capacity of less than 300 MW of electricity—have been developed to the point that the reactor designers have begun discussing design certification and license applications with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and one SMR designer has established time-frames for applications to NRC and construction of a power plant. The Department of Energy (DOE) has provided financial support to the designers of two SMRs for reactor certification and licensing work. DOE supports the SMR design by NuScale through a cost-sharing agreement in which DOE will pay as much as half of NuScale's costs— up to $217 million over 5 years—for certifying the design. The SMR design by mPower has a similar cost-sharing agreement with DOE, but DOE is no longer providing funds because mPower has scaled back its efforts while it looks for additional investors. NuScale expects to submit a design certification application to NRC in late 2016, with its first power plant beginning operation as early as 2023. Other SMR designers do not yet have established time frames for such applications. DOE also supports research and development (R&D) activities on advanced reactor concepts that focus on the high temperature gas reactor and the sodium fast reactor. DOE provides this support in areas such as fuels and material qualification and reactor safety studies. DOE and NRC officials do not expect applications for advanced reactors for at least 5 years.