California-based Oklo Inc has submitted a combined licence application (COLA) for its Aurora "powerhouse" to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). This is the first COLA to be submitted using a new application structure for advanced fission technologies and the first privately funded application for a commercial advanced reactor.

Oklo representatives with NRC staff and the Nuclear Reactor Regulation management team (Image: Oklo)

Aurora is described as an "advanced fission power system" that generates about 1.5 megawatts of power. Oklo began pre-application for the Aurora powerhouse with the NRC in 2016 and in 2018 piloted the new application structure based on existing regulations, completed interactively with NRC review and feedback to drive efficiency and effectiveness for future applications.

The existing application guidance is based on large light water reactors (LWRs) and is generally only appropriate to these plants, Oklo said in its application letter to the NRC. The NRC does not require applicants to follow a certain structure for applications, and it is "in the interest" of the regulator that applicants for advanced fission plants not follow the existing voluntary guidance for LWRs, since that could lead to inappropriate content, but must meet existing regulatory requirements, it said.

"We are excited to show that an application for a fundamentally different fission technology can meet and exceed existing regulations while not being impeded by guidance based on nuclear plants of decades ago," Oklo Chief Operating Officer Caroline Cochran said.

US Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Rita Baranwal said Oklo's COLA was "big news" for the industry. "[Oklo's] microreactor design is the first non-light water advanced reactor to enter the @nrcgov review process, which will help pave the way for future developers. Advanced nuclear is happening in the US!" she tweeted.

Oklo company has previously received federal cost-shared funding for technology development through the US Department of Energy's cost-shared Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear initiative. In December, it received a site use permit from the US Department of Energy to build an Aurora plant at Idaho National Laboratory (INL) which is anticipated to be the first-of-a-kind deployment of the design.

Earlier this year, INL announced that it would provide Oklo with access to high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) fuel recovered from used fuel from the now-decommissioned Experimental Breeder Reactor-II. Several microreactor technologies that would use HALEU, which contains between 5% and 20% uranium-235, are being developed by US companies.

Oklo has made the COLA documents, including its final safety analysis report and environmental report,, available here.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News

Date: Thursday, 19 March 2020
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