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Advanced Reactors and Small Modular Reactors

Reactor designers are developing a number of small light-water reactor (LWR) and non-LWR 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 small modular reactor 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 small modular reactor (SMR)-related 10 CFR Part 52 applications as early as late-2015.

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 light-water reactor (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 small LWR and non-LWR designs. The current status of these issues may be found in the series of related Commission documents. 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.

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 US 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) Accession No. ML15245A637.

NRC policy encourages early discussion (prior to submission of a license application) between agency staff and potential applicants (such as utilities and reactor designers). Such discussions enable the NRC staff to offer licensing guidance and identify and resolve potential licensing issues early in the licensing process. During this pre-application period for design certification, the NRC holds public and closed meetings with potential applicants to discuss advanced reactor designs and identify (1) major safety issues that could require Commission policy guidance to the staff, (2) major technical issues that the staff could resolve under existing NRC regulations and policy, and (3) research needed to resolve identified issues.

See the following pages for specific information regarding pre-application interactions and additional non-LWR activities:

Design Application Type Applicant
NuScale Design Certification NuScale Power, LLC
B&W mPower™ Design Certification Babcock & Wilcox (B&W) mPower, Inc.
Holtec SMR-160 Design Certification SMR LLC, a Holtec International Company
Westinghouse SMR Design Certification Westinghouse Electric Company
Clinch River Site
Roane County, Tennessee
Early Site Permit Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)
Advanced Non-LWR Activities N/A N/A
Page Last Reviewed/Updated Tuesday, September 08, 2015