Just asking the government to approve plans to build the U.S.’s first advanced nuclear reactor cost NuScale Power $500 million and 2 million labor hours over eight years.
And it’s not over yet.
NuScale asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Thursday if it could develop the first small modular reactor in the U.S. The full review process for the reactor will likely take an additional 4o months and could cost NuScale another $600 million to finalize the decision.
The uncertainty surrounding the bureaucratic NRC process has been a major issue for NuScale. Their half a billion dollar investment in its application could be terminated for a host of reasons.
“It’s clearly a big challenge since there is 40 months more of work to be done,” Mike McGough, NuScale’s chief commercial officer, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“We have worked very hard for pre-engagement with the NRC since 2008,” he said. “Since that time, we have provided rigorous pieces of the application for review. In September, we had a readiness assessment review that involved 84 NRC personal reviewing our application. We’ve tried to mitigate that uncertainty.”
NuScale produced a 12,000-page document that cost tens of millions of dollars, which included paying NRC officials $258 per hour for the roughly 40,000 hours of work required to go through the “pre-application” process. The company thinks it can have an operational commercial small modular reactor by 2026 at the earliest.
Advanced modular nuclear reactors could restart the atomic age by providing cheap, meltdown-proof and waste-free nuclear power. The technology was originally developed at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, but was abandoned because it couldn’t be used by the military.
Small modular reactors could be much cheaper than conventional reactors, since they can be manufactured in factories, and require less up-front investment. NuScale’s modular reactors could have serious advantages.
“If you care about the environment, you have to recognize that advanced nuclear power is a critical part of protecting it,” Rep. Chris Stewart, a Utah Republican who was involved in NuScale’s proposal, said in a press conference attended by TheDCNF. “This is a beautiful thing and a step forward. The inherent safety built into this is very exciting.”
Conventional U.S. nuclear plants spend an estimated $4.2 million each every year to meet government paperwork requirements and another $4.4 million to pay government-mandated security staff, according to an American Action Forum report. In addition to paperwork requirement costs, the average plant spends approximately $14 million on various government fees.
Getting regulatory approval from the NRC to build a new conventional reactor can take up to 25 years, while building a new plant by itself only takes about 10 of those years. The NRC requires so much paperwork from the nuclear power providers that the average plant requires 86 full-time employees just to go through it all.
It took an incredible 43 years to get approval to build America’s newest nuclear reactor at Watt Barr in Tennessee due to a combination of scandals, red tape and environmental concerns. Things at the NRC still move so slowly that it took nuclear regulators six months and three different attempts to give congressional overseers information they requested on the research budgets of projects.
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