June 27, 2009

Changes That Will Allow Vastly Improved Small Nuclear Reactors to be Developed

Dan Yurman at Idaho Samizdat has several recommendations for improving the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and actions for small and large nuclear reactor companies

1. Change the formula by which the NRC recovers costs from small reactors for design certification reviews. Instead of requiring the start-ups to pay for all of the costs, require them to pay for a complete application.

2. Establish a line item appropriation to fund the NRC to conduct the design certification reviews of new reactors that are docketed and which meet certain technical criteria. Examples include power (less than 500 MW), the benefits of simplified design and below grade installation, in terms of reduced risk of coolant and core damage accidents, less fuel handling due to longer period of burn up of initial fuel load, and so on.

3. Large reactor vendors are well positioned to help sell and service these reactor designs once they are certified by the NRC.

4. The small reactors should consider forming a trade group to promote their interests which includes legislative proposals like this one. The cost of a lawyer and an engineer in Washington, DC, for a year probably could be had for less than $500,000. These firms should also form technical and regulatory working groups to provide input to the NRC on how it could streamline the current reactor design certification process for their innovative reactors without compromising safety.

5. Take the show on the road to the large reactor vendors. Convince them that there are potential profits to be had through joint ventures for manufacturing, sales, and services. Investors in small reactors want the fastest path possible to a return on investment.

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