Saturday, September 14, 2013

NuScale Nuclear & Partners Pursue DOE Funding

Nuclear technology developer NuScale Power has designed a small modular reactor (SMR) that can be built in a factory and installed as individual modules of 45 megawatts (MW) each. The light water reactor technology SMR units are smaller than traditional nuclear, which can be as large as 1,300MW or more in terms of capacity.  The company traces its origins to work by co-founder Jose Reyes at Oregon State University more than a decade ago.

NuScale has added new support from the private and public sector as it pursues funding from a Department of Energy (DOE) cost-sharing program that targets commercial operation for SMR technology by 2025.

Oregon-based NuScale Power is expected to receive funding from the U.S. Departemnt of Energy (DOE) this month.  Its bid for DOE funding has been helped by its partnering with and receiving support from Rolls-Royce. As part of the collaboration announced in August, London-based manufacturing giant Rolls-Royce provided support with development of the DOE application, and has engineers on-site at NuScale's test facility assisting with technology development.  NuScale submitted its application for DOE funding in early July, and the department is slated to award funds on September 17.

In 2011, Fortune 500 engineering and construction firm, Fluor Corporation, became the majority shareholder in NuScale.

After securing more than 90 patents and conducting years of tests at a scale model of the module, NuScale recently announced that it has achieved what it calls the "Triple Crown" of nuclear safety:  1) shut-down and self-cool indefinitely with no operator action, 2) no AC or DC power, and 3) no additional water. It's the type of feature, known as passive safety, which could have prevented or mediated impacts of a Fukushima-type disaster.

Several Congressional delegations and state leaders in supporting NuScale. The Oregon delegation sent a letter to DOE Secretary Moniz on July 26 urging him to fully and carefully consider the company's proposal" for the funding opportunity.  Oregon Governor Kitzhaber supports the NuScale proposal. Utah Governor Gary Herbert has added his voice in support of NuScale with another letter to the Energy Secretary.

A coalition of Western states, known as Western Initiative for Nuclear (WIN), is participating in a new program to develop and potentially deploy a NuScale project in the region.  The group will study the potential for developing a multi-unit demonstration plant by 2024, possibly at the Idaho National Laboratory. The initiative involves Energy Northwest and Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, with the endorsement of the states of Idaho, Oregon and Arizona.

NuScale Reactor Diagram

The first plant would likely be built and operated by a consortium of regional utilities, with the potential for similar plants to be built in other states in the long term. Energy Northwest is a joint operating agency for 27 public utilities in Washington and operates the Columbia nuclear plant. Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems provides wholesale power to 45 public utilities in Utah, Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Wyoming.

Large power plants of all stripes can face challenges in financing, procurement and labor. In a 2010 report on SMR technology.  Large reactors are not always the best option for smaller power producers. With the ability to add anywhere from 45 to 540MW of power, factory-built, smaller-scale and more flexible SMR modules are a promising option for clean and reliable power. (The Hill, 9/9/2013, NuclearStreet, 7/2/2013)

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