The existing regulatory structure for nuclear power plants impacts both the design and the operation of the facility . The current structure has been known to be overly conservative in several instances. This overly conservative approach results in operational costs to the facility that decrease the profit margin for nuclear power companies. The current design and build process also results in expensive retrofitting and contributes excess costs to the operations of the facility . The current fleet of nuclear reactors is composed mainly of large light water reactors (LWRs) that can, to some extent, counteract these operational costs by the sheer volume of energy produced. However, the deliberately small size of small modular reactors (SMRs) prevents them from benefitting from this economy of scale. In order to be built and operated economically, SMR vendors must find ways to bring the life cycle costs in line with the economic requirements of nuclear power companies.
Sandia National Laboratories has developed a framework that allows vendors and operators to address many of the operational costs during the design and manufacture stages of the SMR life cycle. The framework allows certain operational costs to be addressed in the design stages, thereby decreasing the operational costs, especially those costs associated with staffing and retrofitting. The framework pulls together best practices that have been applied successfully in other industries.
Concurrent Engineering (CE) frames the procedural stages, from defining the expectations of the facility deployment, through the identification of regulatory requirements, to the pre-conceptual, conceptual and detailed design stages. A Project Management Organization is critical to the time management and success of implementing CE. The use of Integrated Safety, Operations, Security, and Safeguards (ISOSS) will lead to achieve a more efficient, cost-effective, and reliable plant. The Balance Model is introduced as a tool to document conflicts between functional areas and identify balancing strategies for conflict resolution in the requirements. Life-Cycle Cost Analysis (LCCA) is proposed as a variable for decision making. Facility Lifecycle Management with Building Information Modeling (BIM) is encouraged to support the Build, Activation, Continued Operations and Decommissioning of the facility .
To ensure that the deployment of SMR is effective and cost efficient, the ideal time to implement the framework is now, before SMR designs reach the detailed stage. SMRs hold a lot of potential and this framework can help the nuclear industry realize that potential.