In DepthNUCLEAR POWER

Critics question whether novel reactor is ‘walk-away safe’

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Science  21 Aug 2020:
Vol. 369, Issue 6506, pp. 888-889
DOI: 10.1126/science.369.6506.888

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Summary

Engineers at NuScale Power believe they can revive the moribund U.S. nuclear industry by thinking small. Spun out of Oregon State University in 2007, the company is striving to win approval from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for the design of a new factory-built, modular fission reactor meant to be smaller, safer, and cheaper than the gigawatt behemoths operating today. Next month, NRC will likely issue a report essentially attesting to the safety of the design. However, reviewers have unearthed design problems that critics say show that NuScale has oversold the safety of its small modular reactor. Others say the issues are typical of the snags new reactor designs run into on the road to approval. Meanwhile, NuScale's likely first customer, Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, has delayed plans to build a NuScale plant, which would include a dozen of the reactors, at the Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory. The $6.1 billion plant would now be completed by 2030, 3 years later than previously planned.

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