Corvallis firm submits first-ever small modular nuclear reactor design to feds for review

CORVALLIS, Ore. - In a big step toward the development of the next generation of nuclear power technology, Corvallis-based NuScale Power has asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to approve the company's small modular reactor commercial plant design.

"We really believe that this is a game changer for our nation," said Dr. Jose Reyes, chief technology officers for NuScale.

This is the first design application of its kind submitted for NRC approval.

"It's a relatively simple concept: a reactor inside of a thermos bottle, underwater, underground," Reyes said.

The technology has been 9 years in the making.

NuScale and its main investor, Fluor Corporation, have sunk $500 million into the project. Department of Energy grants have helped fuel the research.

Reyes said this is a much safer design than traditional nuclear power plants and can be a game changer for production of carbon-free energy in the U.S.

"This plant will safely shut itself down without any operator action, without any AC or DC power," Reyes said.

That's a design which would have prevented the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011, one of the disaster scenarios NuScale has simulated.

The NRC review is expected to take 40 months.

Reyes said if all goes according to plan, the first power plant based on this technology would be built and up and running in Idaho by 2026.

"I believe this will happen," Reyes said. "My level of confidence today is very high."

But for many Oregonians, nuclear power sounds like the option of last resort, as illustrated by the decommissioned and later demolished Trojan plant north of Portland.

NuScale officials said their design is different.

"What NuScale has done to make nuclear power more accessible and more easy to build and install are all things the world needs if we're going to take a real strong jab at reducing carbon emissions," said Ross Snuggerud, NuScale plant operations supervisor.

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