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Clinch River / NRC To Issue Early Site Permit For Small Modular Reactors

By David Dalton
18 December 2019

 NRC To Issue Early Site Permit For Small Modular Reactors
The Clinch River site in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission said it will issue an early site permit to the Tennessee Valley Authority for the Clinch River site in west Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where small modular nuclear reactors could eventually be built.

The early site permit closes several site-related issues, including many related to environmental impacts, for SMRs at the site, the NRC said.

The permit, which will be valid for up to 20 years, is expected to be issued in the next few days.

The permit does not authorise any construction activities regulated by the NRC. No reactor designs have been approved and the TVA board has not yet approved the building of nuclear reactors in Oak Ridge. TVA would need to apply separately for an NRC licence to build and operate a reactor at the Clinch River Nuclear Site.

The permit includes additional provisions, including approved analysis methods, that deal with the NRC’s emergency preparedness regulations. This could allow a future licence applicant at the Clinch River site to request an emergency preparedness zone smaller than those found at current US nuclear power plants, the NRC said.

In June the NRC said it had completed a final safety evaluation report for the early site permit application. The 600-page report reviewed site seismology, geology, hydrology and accident risks, among other things.

According to TVA, the Clinch River site would house SMRs in a facility which would be less expensive to build and offer a shorter construction period.

The US Department of Energy is supporting the TVA project through an agreement which can reimburse the utility for up to 50% of eligible costs.

TVA operates the Browns Ferry, Sequoyah and Watts Bar nuclear power stations, which between them have seven nuclear power units.

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