ANS Publishes Position Statement on Small Modular Reactors

August 5, 2011, 3:28PMANS Nuclear Cafe

Statement identifies advantages, makes recommendations

by: Dan Yurman

The American  Nuclear Society's Position Statement on Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) was issued on August 5, ANS President Eric Loewen announced.

"This statement recognizes the importance of SMRs  to the future of nuclear energy and provides some specific recommendations to make SMRs a near term reality," Loewen said.

The Position Statement (No. 25) describes SMRs as nuclear reactors with power levels less than or equal to 300 MWe and notes that they use safe, proliferation-resistant technologies. In addition, they have the following advantages:

  • Use manufacturing capability currently available in the United States
  • Have lower capital cost with reduced debt profile
  • Require shorter construction time
  • Can be deployed in markets in the United States and abroad that cannot accommodate or afford large reactors
  • Meet some mission requirements for government and military applications; and
  • Provide electricity to remote populated areas such as in the northern latitudes.

Donald Eggett, past chairman of the Operations and Power Division of ANS, who was instrumental in the development of the statement, said, "ANS's recommendations for actions by the United States government include expediting research and identifying and resolving generic licensing issues through interaction with all stakeholders and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. If adopted, this technology will put us well on our way to implementing this beneficial nuclear energy technology to enhance our energy mix."

Loewen added, "By taking a leadership role in addressing licensing issues for SMRs, the American Nuclear Society has helped set the stage for all the benefits associated with their deployment which include job creation, potential opportunities to export SMRs and supporting technologies and services, and opportunities to incorporate proliferation-resistant features into SMR designs and manufacturing."

ANS Nuclear Cafe talked with Vince Gilbert, chief knowledge officer of Excel Services Corporation, who helped draft the position statement. Gilbert noted that the position statement is the result of the work of more than 60 nuclear professionals who participated in the ANS President's Special Committee on Generic Licensing Issues for Small Modular Reactors.

"Our purposes are to engage public dialog and contribute to the interactions with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission," Gilbert said.

LWR designs

Gilbert said that the current mindset at the NRC is on lightwater reactors. The agency has published a list of issues it needs to resolve with regard to licensing SMRs, but metal-cooled reactor designs are further down the list in terms of its priorities.

"The primary LWR reactor designs getting attention are those from B&W, NuScale, Westinghouse, and Holtec. Fast reactors present additional challenges and the NRC will have to work out how to address them," Gilbert said.

One of the reasons that the ANS committee was formed is to help the United States safely export this technology. The nation will lose its global technology leadership potential if it lags in this regard and also lose the jobs that would be created by manufacturing SMRs in factory settings.

The SMR committee published an interim report, which is available on the ANS Web site. One of the issue papers that is still under development is on emergency planning. The events in Fukushima, Japan, in March raised new issues about emergency planning.

A key issue is that at Fukushima, multiple reactors were impacted by a single natural disaster. Since SMRs are, by design, intended to be multi-unit sites, the whole concept of emergency planning for them needs to be assessed in light of recent events. Gilbert said that as a result, the emergency planning white paper is still a work in progress.

Topical conference on SMRs

The American Nuclear Society will hold a topical conference on SMRs, embedded in its national meeting to take place in Washington, D.C., on October 30-November 3. Gilbert, who is a key figure in organizing the conference, said that the meeting is a must attend for anyone in the business.

"The meeting will allow participants to interact and learn about the new wave of SMRs from multiple points of view and will address technical issues, licensing approaches, university and national lab involvement, and plans for commercial realization. ANS recognizes SMRs as a key to maintaining U.S. national security and energy security through generation of clean electricity, as well as meeting the needs of a variety of industrial applications," he said.


Dan Yurman publishes Idaho Samizdat, a blog on nuclear energy. He is a frequent contributor to ANS Nuclear Cafe.


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