Oklo reapproaches NRC with microreactor licensing plan

September 22, 2022, 3:00PMNuclear News
Graphic rendition of the Aurora microreactor. (Image: Oklo Inc.)

Some eight months after the Nuclear Regulatory Commission denied Oklo Inc.’s license application to build and operate its Aurora microreactor in Idaho, the company has returned to the regulatory fray. On Wednesday, Oklo announced that it has submitted to the NRC a licensing project plan (LPP) outlining its proposed engagement to support future Aurora licensing activities.

According to the announcement, the LPP presents prelicensing interactions that will help Oklo and the agency achieve an efficient and effective review process, including items necessary for advanced fission designs.

What they’re saying: “Oklo’s reactor design has excellent safety characteristics and robust performance features,” said Jacob DeWitte, the California-based firm’s cofounder and chief executive officer. “We are working to present these features in a manner similar to what the NRC is used to from licensing light water reactors. To achieve a transparent and effective review process, Oklo has responded to every NRC request for information promptly, and we look forward to continuing to engage with NRC as we prepare for upcoming application submissions.”

“We enjoyed productive and constructive preapplication engagements with the NRC leading up to our Aurora Idaho National Laboratory COLA [combined license application] from 2016 through 2020, and our use of LPPs was a valuable tool in guiding that process,” commented Ross Moore, Oklo’s director of regulatory affairs. “Oklo’s technology builds on decades of operational data. The experience and familiarity Oklo has with the NRC staff from our history of licensing engagement and our intentional and focused licensing interactions will help prepare for effective application reviews.”

Background: Oklo submitted its COLA on March 11, 2020, for Aurora—a 1.5-MWe compact fast spectrum microreactor—to be built at Idaho National Laboratory. (The NRC and Oklo began preapplication discussions in 2016.) The COLA contained more than 200 novel licensing items that the company had developed.

NRC staff accepted the COLA for docketing on June 5, 2020, making Aurora the first advanced non–light water reactor to be accepted for review by the agency.

This January, however, the NRC denied “without prejudice” the COLA, citing Oklo’s failure to provide sufficient information on several crucial topics regarding the Aurora design, including potential accidents and the classification of safety systems and components.

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