Step into a university laboratory, an operating power plant, and a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission office and inquire what the next 10 years hold for nuclear power. A bright eyed graduate student in the foremost case may excitedly attest that liquid core reactors are going to change the world as we know it. A gentleman nearly as venerable as the aging plant he attends might reverently outline the extended hospice care that the mighty but mortal plant will receive. And you’re likely to hear about advancements in waste management, a bit about nuclear safeguards, and plenty about the difficulties of construction from across an NRC desk.
Though the perspectives and priorities are necessarily diverse, the industry is shared; each element can maximize its success only with the service of the others. The field is so broad, so complex, and so interdisciplinary that getting ideas safely implemented in any reasonable timescale requires levels of collaboration that other industries can do without. Unfortunately, this cooperation does not always occur spontaneously. Scientists and Engineers often leave academia with little knowledge of what it takes to implement the fantastic designs within their heads, and utilities are likely to shy away from the uncertainty of innovation, with regulators caught in the middle assessing obstacles both technological and political. But if nuclear power is to evolve—that is, if it is to survive its changing environment—then these gaps must be bridged. Fortunately for the industry, steps are already being taken to do exactly this.
NuScale, an Oregon based company, has attracted the attention of Utah energy provider UAMPS and Energy Northwest with its innovative and implementable Small Modular Reactor (SMR) design, finding success by applying industrial concerns to inventive advanced reactors. Furthermore, NuScale Integral System Test facility was constructed to simulate an operating plant control room, making the NRC’s job significantly easier and therefore greatly expediting the licensing process. It is a prime example of the different branches of nuclear industry working together to bear a single fruit.
However, the physical construction of these designs cannot be taken for granted—manufacturers, regulators, and end customers must all agree on what ought to belong in a nuclear power plant. United Controls International has found its niche in the process of commercial grade dedication; mediating within the supply chain and performing independent testing to provide quality components to utilities and vendors via its NRC approved quality assurance program. As before, UCI is able to enforce regulatory protocols in the light of industrial constraints.
NTI also does its part to combine innovation, implementation, and regulation in its offered classes. Understanding and Implementing ASME NQA-1 was developed to give students and industry professionals insight into the history, structure, and content of NQA-1. Software Dedication, a more specialized course, goes into the details of how the same process can be applied to the cutting edge of digital controls—an area that has long lagged far behind in the nuclear industry. These courses are taught by industry professionals, but are for the benefit of students and professionals alike. The first step to successful cooperation between the many limbs of the nuclear industry is mutual understanding between the arms, something that NTI hopes to accomplish.