News from the US: First “advanced” reactor licence application dismissed

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) dismissed the licence application for the “first advanced reactor … with full private funding backing for a commercial project” because the application lacked information on safety and other key issues. Read the story HERE.

CRED-NB’s take on this story above: In contrast to the US nuclear regulator, In Canada we have the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) with a much more accommodating process: pre-licence “Vendor Design Reviews” or VDRs. The VDRs certify that the nuclear proponents applying for a licence understand the CNSC licence process. It’s impossible to “fail” this largely instructional/advisory process, intended to assist in the subsequent licence process.

Passing a pre-licence VDR allows the nuclear proponent (the company with a design for a so-called small modular nuclear reactor) to promote the “success” of its design. The multiple nuclear companies currently in the CNSC’s VDR process are in serious competition for private investors. Advertising their “success” in a VDR gives the impression that the CNSC has approved the design’s technical readiness, which is not the case.

The pre-licence VDR seems to promote the industry in Canada. An expert in the US has said that the pre-licence VDR process makes Canada like a tax haven for start-up SMR companies. Judging by the high number of SMR start-ups in Canada from other countries, this is believable.

The CNSC publishes the executive summary of the VDR reports on its website. The conclusion section of each summary identifies safety and performance aspects of the proposed design needing more information for the next VDR phase. All of the VDR reports we’ve read end with the astonishing phrase: “Notwithstanding the above, these issues are foreseen to be resolvable and will be followed up on in future phases of the VDR.”

How can a regulator state that core issues related to novel nuclear reactor safety and performance “are foreseen to be resolvable”? A logical conundrum!?

Author: CRED-NB

Coalition for Responsible Energy Development in New Brunswick