The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has received an Early Site Permit (ESP) application for small modular reactor units at Clinch River, on a 486 hectare site near Oak Ridge, from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). It is the first SMR-related application of any type to be submitted to NRC, according to TVA chief nuclear officer Joe Grimes.

An ESP certifies that a site is suitable for the construction of a NPP in terms of safety, environmental impact and emergency planning and is valid for 10 to 20 years. It does not specify any choice of technology. NRC’s ESP application review process also provides opportunities for public participation. TVA senior manager for SMRs, Dan Stout said the company was "still several years away" from any potential construction decision.

TVA’s application and subsequent work on the review and approval process is being co-funded by the US Department of Energy (DOE) under a five-year inter-agency agreement finalized in July 2015. The department has been supporting the development and commercial deployment of SMRs, which it believes could play an important role in addressing energy security, economic and climate goals.

As well as its agreement with TVA, the DOE is also supporting NuScale and Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems in site characterization activities at the Idaho National Laboratory under a three-year cost-shared cooperative agreement finalized in August 2015.