DOE agreement supports power generated from SMRs

28 December 2018

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has signed a memorandum of understanding on the use of two of the 12 modules of a demonstration small modular reactor project planned for Idaho National Laboratory (INL).

An artistic impression on how a plant based on NuScale's SMR design could appear (Image: NuScale Power)

Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) formally launched the Carbon Free Power Project in 2015 as part of its long-term strategy to reduce carbon emissions and replace aging coal-fired plants with a non-fossil fuel, and medium-sized, flexible power generating source. As part of the project, UAMPS plans the development of a 12-module NuScale plant at a site at the INL, with operation expected by 2027.

The DOE announced on 21 December that it had signed an MoU with UAMPS and INL's Battelle Energy Alliance (BEA) that allocates one of the SMR modules for research, development and demonstration for the Joint Use Modular Plant (JUMP) programme. The research is expected to focus primarily on integrated energy systems that support the production of both electricity and non-electric energy products.

The MoU also calls for another module of the demonstration plant to provide electricity to meet INL's power needs through a possible power purchase agreement. According to the DOE, INL will need up to 70 MWe of power in the 2025-2030 timeframe.

"This agreement will allow DOE to meet its needs in the form of resilient power to a national security mission-based lab while drawing from our nation's newest class of advanced reactors," said Ed McGinnis, principal deputy assistant secretary of the DOE's Office of Nuclear Energy. "The JUMP programme provides a unique opportunity for the nation's leading nuclear laboratory to conduct nuclear energy research, and contribute to the successful commercialisation of the nation's first SMR."

While the DOE has supported the site selection and licence application preparation as part of its SMR Licensing Technical Support siting studies,it is not funding the construction, operation or ultimate decommissioning of the potential plant at INL.

NuScale's self-contained SMR design houses the reactor core, pressuriser and steam generator inside a single containment vessel. A single module can generate 50 MWe (gross) of electricity and at just under 25 metres in length, 4.6 metres in diameter and weighing 450 tonnes, incorporates simple, redundant, diverse, and independent safety features. A power plant could include up to 12 modules, to produce as much as 720 MWe (gross).

NuScale's SMR is undergoing design certification review by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the first and so far only SMR to do so. The NRC completed the first phase of its review in April, and the regulator is scheduled to complete its safety evaluation report in August 2020. NuScale expects the application to be approved by the commission the following month.

UAMPS is a political subdivision of the State of Utah that provides comprehensive wholesale electric-energy, transmission, and other energy services, on a non-profit basis, to community-owned power systems throughout the Intermountain West. UAMPS members are located Utah, California, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming.

UAMPS members are expected to vote by the end of 2019 on whether to finance and/or support the Carbon Free Power Project. It is anticipated electricity produced by the project would be used by UAMPS members in several western states, including Idaho, Nevada and California.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News