The Department of Energy (DOE) has selected Oregon-based NuScale Power LCC as the winner of its second round of funding to commercialize the much-discussed small modular reactor (SMR) technology in the United States.
DOE announced the new five-year cost-share agreement late Dec. 12. The Energy Department will invest up to half of the total project cost, with the project’s industry partners matching this investment by at least one-to-one.
The specific total will be negotiated between DOE and NuScale and will be derived from the total $452m identified for DOE’s Small Modular Reactor Licensing Technical Support program.
NuScale had been an early pioneer in mini reactor technology. In 2011, Fluor (NYSE:FLR) became the major investor in NuScale.
DOE’s investment will help NuScale obtain Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) design certification and achieve commercial operation around 2025.
The cooperative agreement requires that the reactors be built domestically – strengthening American manufacturing capabilities and creating important export opportunities for the United States. The project will be based in Oregon and will support additional suppliers and operations in California, Idaho, Washington, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, Kansas, Texas and Maryland.
A Babcock & Wilcox (NYSE:BWC) affiliate, mPower, won the first DOE SMR cost-sharing award in 2012. The B&W group plans 2022 deployment for two 180-MW mPower units at the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Clinch River site in Roane County, Tenn.
NuScale was the only winner announced by DOE Dec. 12. There had been some speculation in industry circles that there might be two awards.
Small modular reactors – which are a fraction of the size of current nuclear power plants – have compact, scalable designs. DOE is seeking small modular reactor designs that can be made in factories and transported to sites where they would be ready for installation upon arrival.
“Small modular reactors represent a new generation of safe, reliable, low-carbon nuclear energy technology and provide a strong opportunity for America to lead this emerging global industry,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.
NuScale has 45-MW design for SMR
In an interview with GenerationHub this summer, NuScale officials stressed that their small, 45-MW reactor makes it very flexible and competitive.
While NuScale SMRs are ideally suited for a six-pack or 12-pack configuration that could provide 270 MW or 540 MW of power generation in a central complex, the modules can offer any 45-MW increment. This makes it ideal for power growth in various pockets of the western United States, NuScale has said.
NuScale has looked to develop a pack of the 45-MW modules at the Idaho National Laboratory. Nothing is certain “until someone actually signs an order,” a NuScale official said Dec. 12. But Idaho is being contemplated, he added.
Nuclear advocates place lots of hope on SMR technology. But Friends of the Earth (FOE) Nuclear official Tom Clements believes commercial SMR success is far from a sure thing. A “big question is how much does it cost to finish design and licensing” at NRC, Clements said Dec. 12.