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Nuclear Regulatory Commission gives early OK to new reactor

March 17, 2017 GMT

Another hurdle has been cleared in the effort to approve small modular nuclear reactors.

In a March 7 letter, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, or NRC, gave notice to NuScale Power that its design certification application for the reactor has been accepted for technical review.

NuScale Power is a subsidiary of Fluor Corp., which also is the parent company of Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, operator of the Savannah River Site in Aiken County.

“The NRC staff has performed an acceptance review of the (application), and found that the material presented provides the technical information in sufficient detail to enable the NRC staff to conduct a detailed technical review,” the NRC letter said.

A day after the announcement, Fluor’s (FLR) stock dropped 51 cents a share at the end of trading Thursday, to $54.02 a share, according to the NASDAQ exchange.

NuScale’s roughly 12,000-page application was filed in December 2016. It’s expected to take at least 40 months for the NRC to fully review the application and render a decision.

“Fluor is pleased that the NRC validated the receipt of NuScale’s design certification application in such a timely manner,” David Seaton, Fluor’s chairman and CEO, said in a prepared statement.

“We believe that the future of the U.S. new-build generation industry includes NuScale’s small modular reactor technology and that NuScale is uniquely positioned as the only U.S. company leading the way,” the statement said.

In the March 7 letter, the NRC requested several bullet points of information from NuScale, including various technical descriptions of the reactor module’s primary and secondary systems.

The modules are designed to produce smaller amounts of power, utilizing numerous reactors as opposed to one large reactor.

NuScale in a prior news release said each module can produce 50 megawatts of energy, and a typical plant can house up to 12 modules for up to 600 megawatts of energy.

Bundling less energy into more, smaller-sized modules is considered safer, more reliable and more versatile than a traditional, 1,000-megawatt reactor, the release said.

Initial plans call for the reactors to be deployed at the Idaho National Laboratory.

According to NuScale, conservative estimates state that by 2035, between 55 and 75 gigawatts of the world’s energy will come from small modular reactors.