NRC Goes With "Dose-Based" Emergency Planning For SMR Plants

In a preliminary response to the Tennessee Valley Authority's early site permit application concerning a small nuclear reactor facility at Clinch River, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said that safety mandates could be developed based on scalable system, meaning it would not have to conform with standard-sized emergency planning zones currently mandated for large-scale commercial nuclear power plants.

NuScale's SMR The NRC took note of three critical differences between SMR facilities and large light-water reactors, including the amount of radioactive material loaded into the core, the passive safety features of SMR power plants and the overall simpler designs.

TVA's early site permit application included information on four SMR designs, the Nuclear Energy Institute said. These included BWXT's mPower plant, Holtec International'ls SMR-160 design, Westinghouses SMR project and NuScale Power's project, which is the one with the most details available.

The NEI applauded the regulator's “dose-based” approach, noting that it would allow for quicker applications and cut costs for safety planning. “Off-site EP requirements and plans can be scaled down to be prooportionate with those reduced risks, including an EPZ (emergency planning zone) that need not extend beyond the plant site boundary,” the NEI said.

The industry believes that this recognition of the enhanced safety features of small and advanced reactors could greatly simplify the licensing of these technologies and increase their cost competitiveness,” the NEI said. In a more cautious remark, the industry association called the preliminary ruling “a potential breakthrough.”

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