NRC develops new fees for SMRs

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said in a policy paper released on ADAMS that it will develop a new fee schedule for small modular reactors. The new fees will be significantly less than those charged to full size 1000 MW or larger units.  SMRs typically are designed to have electrical power ratings of 300 MW or less.

Also, the NRC said it would consider “variable” fees for SMRs especially where there are multiple units at a single location.

The NRC recovers 90% of its operating budget from licensing fees.  Fees for the licenses of full size units can be $5 million.

The NRC expects to complete the new fee schedule sometime in the winter of 2016. Later that year NuScale, which is developing a 50 MW SMR, is expected to submit its design for safety review. It isn’t clear whether the new fee schedule will include a reduction in the cost of engineer time by the NRC for safety reviews and licensing of SMRs. The current fee runs close to $300/hr.

NuScale has said it expects to spend over $400 million preparing the design and getting it through the safety review at the NRC. Some of this money is coming from a Department of Energy cost sharing grant.

NuScale has a first customer for its design which is UAMPS. A site for construction of the first unit has not formally been selected by the customer. The vendor and the utility hope to have the first of 12 planned 50 MW units in operation by 2023.

The SMR developer also said it has launched a new corporate web site to provide information on its progress. On the web: http://www.nuscalepower.com/   The firm reports on its interactions with the NRC on a special web page for that purpose.

NRC to revise foreign ownership rules

NRC staff are working on revisions to the regulations that control how much of a US built nuclear reactor can be owned by a foreign entities including either state owned nuclear vendors or private firms located outside the US.  The current rule limits it to 50%.  This rule sank the prospects for French state owned EDF to proceed with the Calvert Cliffs III 1600 MW EPR. EDF held 100% of the ownership in the project.

The new rule, if it provides what the NRC is calling a “graded approach,” could make new sources of investment capital available for both full scale and SMR reactor projects.  That might change the reluctance of firms like B&W and Westinghouse to proceed with their SMR efforts.  Having the deep pockets of an overseas sovereign wealth fund behind either firm might take some of the risk out of the SMR development field.

Bringing significant foreign investment to US projects could reopen opportunities for both SMR developers with their respective potential customers. Westinghouse is still interested in building a 225 MW SMR with Ameren at its Callaway site. Babcock & Wilcox at one time had extensive consultations with First Energy for development of an SMR in Ohio.  Bechtel would have had the EPC role if the project had gone ahead.

Both firms may wait to see how NuScale does in its safety review and the outcome of the efforts of its customer to get a license before they put their oars back in the water.

TVA has taken a long option relative to SMRs by developing an Early Site Permit, without referencing a reactor design, for its Clinch River site. Also, it would be very unlikely that the quasi US government corporation would accept foreign investment.

NRC tells New Reactors staff to issue license for Watts Bar II

The five members of the  NRC have voted to authorize the staff of the New Reactors Division to issue a license to TVA’s Watts Bar II unit once it meets all safety and regulatory requirements.  TVA has spent over $4 billion completing the 1200 MW reactor.  The utility plans to have the reactor connected to the grid perhaps as early as December of this year.

The NRC has published a post on its blog the explains the steps that will lead to issuing a license.

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One Response to NRC develops new fees for SMRs

  1. Joseph Talnagi says:

    It’s what the doctor ordered. I was worried for a long time about the existing fee structure being a significant barrier to SMR entry. If this works out as envisioned, it should help. Now if only a generic approach could be taken to approving these at various sites, it would be icing on the cake.

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