NRC Approves Clinch River Site Review

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has completed its Final Safety Evaluation Report for an Early Site Permit application from Tennessee Valley Authority for the Clinch River Nuclear Site, finding no safety aspects that would prevent the project from going forward.

NRC“The report concludes there are no safety aspects that would preclude issuing the permit for the site, approximately five miles southwest of Oak Ridge, Tenn.,” the agency said.

The report runs approximately 600-pages. It describes the agency's review of the application, and incorporates comments from the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards.

The environmental review does not name any specific reactor or plant. However, the government-owned TVA submitted an application for at least two small modular reactors to be sited at the Clinch River property, which is home to the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The application calls for two modular reactors of up to 800 MWe, which are small compared to modern, conventional nuclear power plants, but large compared to most commonly defined characteristics of a ‘Small Modular Reactor,” which are generally considered as 300 MWe or smaller.

The NRC staff reviewed information on topics including site seismology, geology, meteorology and hydrology; risks from potential accidents resulting from the operation of a nuclear plant at the site; and the major features of the emergency plan TVA would implement if a reactor was built at the site.

The report also reviewed the unique aspects of the application. These included requests for exemptions from some offsite emergency planning requirements, including the plume exposure pathway emergency planning zone, as well as a proposed plume exposure planning zone size methodology. A future reactor license applicant could use the sizing methodology to determine an appropriate planning zone for the application’s specific reactor type.

The ESP process allows an applicant to address site-related issues, such as environmental impacts, for possible future construction and operation of a nuclear power plant at the site.

TVA submitted the application on May 12, 2016. More information on the ESP process is available on the NRC website.

The staff will provide the report on the application to the Commission for a mandatory hearing on the permit later this year. The staff issued its Environmental Impact Statement on the application in April 2019. The Commission will conduct the hearing to determine whether the staff’s review supports the findings necessary to issue the permit.

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