The US Department of Energy (DoE) has chosen NuScale Power's small modular reactor (SMR) to receive federal funding in a project that will see the DoE invest up to half of the cost of developing, licensing and commercialising the reactor.
NuScale was one of a number of SMR projects to apply for the five-year cost-share funding opportunity, announced by the DoE in March 2013. The specific total of the funding is to be negotiated by the DoE and NuScale, and will come from the DoE's total pot of $452 million earmarked for technical support of SMR licensing. Industrial partners will be expected to at least match the DoE's investment.
US energy secretary Ernest Moniz said that SMRs represented a new generation of safe, reliable, low-carbon nuclear energy technology. "The Energy Department is committed to strengthening nuclear energy’s continuing important role in America’s low carbon future, and new technologies like small modular reactors will help ensure our continued leadership in the safe, secure and efficient use of nuclear power worldwide," he said. A first round of DoE SMR funding was awarded to Babcock & Wilcox's mPower reactor in November 2012.
The DoE says its investment will help NuScale to obtain design certification from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission with a view to achieving commercialisation around 2025. The reactors are to be built domestically in the USA, and the project will be based in the state of Oregon where NuScale has its headquarters.
NuScale originated as a spin-off company based on research work at Oregon State University, but its majority investor is US energy and power company Fluor. Fluor group president for global business development and strategy, Dave Dunning, said the company was "extremely pleased" by the DoE's funding decision, saying that it validated the company's 2011 decision to invest in NuScale. According to Fluor, the companies are evaluating potential investors, manufacturers and supply chain partners for future potential SMR development efforts. As well as Fluor, NuScale is supported by British engineering company Rolls-Royce which has a strong manufacturing base in the USA.
Various different SMR concepts are being developed around the world. At up to 300 MWe, they are around one-third of the size of conventional nuclear power plants and as well as enhanced safety and ease of manufacturing and construction their compact, scalable designs offer potential benefits over larger reactors in various circumstances, for example in remote locations.
NuScale's SMR is a 45 MWe self-contained pressurized water reactor and generator set, which would be factory made and shipped for deployment in sets of up to 12 to make scalable nuclear power plants with capacities from 45 MWe to 540 MWe. Using conventional fuel assemblies, the core would be cooled by natural circulation, requiring fewer components and safety systems than conventional reactors.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News