United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment
Home > Nuclear Reactors > Advanced Reactors and Small Modular Reactors

Advanced Reactors and Small Modular Reactors

Reactor designers are developing a number of advanced non light-water reactor (LWR) and light-water small modular reactor (SMR) designs employing innovative solutions to technical nuclear power issues. These designs could be used for generating electricity in isolated areas or producing high-temperature process heat for industrial purposes. In addition, some utilities are considering licensing SMR designs using the 10 CFR Part 52 combined license (COL) or early site permit (ESP) processes. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) expects to receive applications for staff review and approval of SMR-related 10 CFR Part 52 applications over the next few years.

The NRC has developed its current regulations on the basis of experience gained over the past 40 years from the design and operation of large LWR facilities. Now, to facilitate the licensing of new reactor designs that differ from the current generation of large LWR facilities, the NRC staff seeks to resolve key safety and licensing issues and develop a regulatory infrastructure to support licensing review of these unique reactor designs. Toward that end, the staff has identified several potential policy and technical issues associated with licensing SMR and non-LWR designs. The current status of these issues may be found in the series of related Commission documents. Although the more recent Commission documents are focused on SMRs, NRC staff recognizes that many of these issues could apply to advanced non-LWR designs in the future. The staff has also assembled a list of stakeholder position papers identifying stakeholder documents that communicate opinions to the staff on technical or policy issues. Additionally, the NRC's Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research has engaged in an extensive program focusing on nine key areas of anticipatory and confirmatory research in support of licensing reviews for advanced reactors. The NRC also interacts with its international regulatory counterparts to share information.

Advanced Reactors

In August 2012, the NRC provided to Congress a requested report addressing advanced reactor licensing. The report addresses the NRC's overall strategy for, and approach to, preparing for the licensing of advanced non-LWR reactors. The report addresses licensing applications anticipated over the next two decades, as well as potential licensing activity beyond that time. It focuses on the licensing of nuclear reactor facilities for commercial use and illustrates regulatory challenges that may occur if various advanced reactor initiatives evolve into licensing applications.

On September 1-2, 2015, the NRC and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) cohosted the Advanced Non-Light Water Reactors Workshop to discuss the development and deployment of non-light water reactors. Topics included an overview of roles and responsibilities of the NRC and DOE, previous experience licensing non-LWR designs, critical gaps and needs in research and development that need to be addressed, and suggestions for improvements in the licensing of non-LWR designs. This is intended to be the first in a series of workshops focused on non-LWR designs. The workshop presentations are available in the NRC's Agencywide Document Access and Management System (ADAMS) at Accession No. ML15245A637 and a summary of the workshop is available at ADAMS Accession No. ML15265A165.

The table below provides information on previous and current activities regarding advanced non-LWRs.

Design Application Type Applicant
Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP) Design Certification/
Construction Permit
U.S. Department of Energy, Idaho National Laboratory, NGNP Industry Alliance
Advanced Non-LWR Activities N/A N/A

Small Modular Reactors

The August 2012, Report to Congress also addressed the current and future activities related to SMRs. The report identified SMRs as the technology requiring near term readiness activities.

The NRC has engaged in varying degrees of pre-application activities with several SMR designers over the past several years. The NRC expects to receive a design certification application from NuScale Power, LLC in the second half of 2016.

Below is a summary of the reactor designers and a potential license applicant with whom the NRC has engaged with in pre-application activities.

Design Application Type Applicant
NuScale Design Certification NuScale Power, LLC
BWXT mPower™ Design Certification BWXT mPower, Inc.
SMR-160 Construction Permit/
Operating License
SMR Inventec, LLC, a Holtec International Company
Clinch River Site
Roane County, Tennessee
Early Site Permit Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)
Page Last Reviewed/Updated Thursday, November 19, 2015