Reminder: The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission will have two public meetings in Oak Ridge today (Tuesday, April 12). The meetings are to discuss the safety and environmental review process related to a Tennessee Valley Authority permit application for small modular reactors at the Clinch River Nuclear Site in west Oak Ridge.
TVA expects to submit what is known as an early site permit, or ESP, application by May 12.
One of the topics to be discussed today is how and when the public may participate in the NRC review process, if desired, a NRC meeting notice said. “The public is encouraged to ask questions about the NRC review process for this ESP Application,”
Two sessions are scheduled in the auditorium of the Pollard Technology Conference Center at 210 Badger Avenue in Oak Ridge.
The first is scheduled from 1-4 p.m. Tuesday, April 12, and the second is scheduled from 6-9 p.m. Prior to each formal session, there will be an informal one-hour open house to give the public an opportunity to speak informally with the NRC staff.
The public is invited to participate by providing comments and asking questions throughout the meeting.
The proposal to build small modular nuclear reactors, possibly including in Oak Ridge, has been in the works for a number of years.
The small nuclear reactors that could be built along the Clinch River could provide enough electricity to power several cities the size of Oak Ridge. They could also be, depending upon the timing, the first commercial reactors of their type in the United States.
They’re known as small modular reactors, or SMRs. They could generate 80 to 200 megawatts each. One hundred megawatts is enough to power about 60,000 homes. Oak Ridge has about 12,000 homes.
Several companies are working on SMR designs, but so far none have been certified by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said Jim Hopson, public relations manager for the Tennessee Valley Authority.
By May 12, TVA plans to submit an application to the NRC for the early site permit to build SMRs on the Clinch River Site in west Oak Ridge. Hopson likened an early site permit, or ESP, to a pre-approval for a home loan, although he said that is an oversimplification.
“It’s similar to pre-approving yourself for a loan,” Hopson said. “You get the preliminaries out of the way.”
The ESP would allow site characterization and an evaluation of the suitability of the 1,200-acre Clinch River Site. The site is in west Oak Ridge just north of the Clinch River and Interstate 40, south of the East Tennessee Technology Park (the former K-25 site), and between Highway 95 and Highway 58 in a bend of the Clinch River.
Here is an overview of the TVA’s Clinch River Site Early Site Permit application.
It’s not clear yet how many SMRs could be built in Oak Ridge, but it could range between two and six. Hopson said SMRs are designed to be used in groups, but no decision has been made about the number that could be built here.
Before the SMRs could be built in Oak Ridge, though, the NRC would have to approve an early site permit, certify a design, and approve a construction and operating permit. Also, the TVA board would have to give the go-ahead.
The SMRs produce considerably less power than a traditional nuclear power plant. All of TVA’s traditional nuclear power plants generate at least 1,100 megawatts, compared to the 80-200 megawatts of a proposed SMR.
Officials say the traditional large, expensive nuclear power plants are great for providing base load power. They are designed to stay at 100 percent power throughout the fuel cycle.
But they have to be built on location and aren’t scalable. And it takes about five to 10 years to bring one online, and that requires projecting power needs a decade or more into the future, Hopson said.
In contrast, the lower-output SMRs are designed to be brought online in sequence. Investments in those nuclear plants can be phased in in smaller, more manageable chunks, Hopson said.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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