The first advanced reactor proposal suffers a setback

This story was updated at 6:20 PM EST.

The clearance application for one of the first advanced nuclear reactor designs to go to federal review suffered a setback today when regulators announced they were rejecting the proposal for lack of information.

Silicon Valley-based Oklo Inc. did not provide enough information on potential accidents and classifications of safety systems and components in the design of its 1.5 megawatt advanced fission power system, known as Aurora, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said.

Without this information, the committee could not rule on the merits of the design. This prompted the agency to dismiss the request without prejudice, allowing Oklo to resubmit it in the future, the commission said.

“Oklo’s application continues to contain significant information gaps in its description of potential Aurora accidents as well as in its classification of safety systems and components,” said Andrea Veil, Director of the Office of regulation of nuclear reactors of the NRC. “These gaps prevent further review activity. “

The NRC said information gaps persisted even after the company and the agency tried to work on the documents needed to complete the initial proposal submitted in March 2020. Oklo submitted additional information in July and October, but that did not answer questions from the NRC, the commission said.

“We are ready to reconnect with Oklo if they submit a revised request that provides the information we need for a thorough and timely review,” added Veil.

In response, Oklo expressed disappointment at the setback, but still vowed to push forward that request along with a series of early proposals he’s working on with NRC.

“We are disappointed and digest the information provided, but the bigger picture is that we are eager to continue moving forward not only on this project with NRC, but also on other projects that we are already on. engaged with NRC, including other budgeted requests. submissions, ”said Oklo spokesperson Bonita Chan.

The application is the first advanced reactor license application submitted to the NRC with full private funding for a commercial project (Energy wire, March 18, 2020). The company had been in pre-application talks with regulators since 2016.

Most of NRC’s current regulatory review processes focus on light water reactors. But a wave of expected advanced reactor designs has caused the commission to rethink how it approaches these reviews.

“Our combined license application was the first ever to be accepted for a high-tech factory, so there is a lot of new things to learn and work on to support a successful review, and it provides a foundation from which we can provide feedback. additional information and continue to work with NRC, ”Chan added.

When applying, Oklo said that its technology was capable of producing “1.5 MW of electrical power and while in operation it can save 1,000,000 tonnes of carbon emissions compared to the alternative to the diesel generator ”.

The design is able to generate heat using advanced fuel, which is then converted into electricity. The operation would last decades without having to refuel, with the possibility of using nuclear waste as fuel stock.

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