NuScale updates project partners on US SMR plant costs

21 November 2022

The latest cost estimate for a project to build the first NuScale small modular reactor (SMR) power plant in the USA underscores the need for scalable advanced nuclear technology that can produce cleaner, safer and cost competitive energy, the CEO of NuScale Power has said.

How a VOYGR-6 plant at Idaho National Laboratory might look (Image: UAMPS)

"Earlier this fall, the latest cost estimate for the Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP) was finalised with our Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) and Fluor Corporation partners. The cost estimate is currently being reviewed by UAMPS and the CFPP project team and underscores the need for scalable advanced nuclear technology that can produce cleaner, safer and cost competitive energy," John Hopkins said in a message addressed to "colleagues, partners and friends".

UAMPS' project, which is to be built near Idaho Falls, Idaho, will deploy six of NuScale's 77 MWe VOYGR modules to generate 462 MWe of carbon free electricity.

UAMPS is a political subdivision of the State of Utah that provides wholesale electric energy services on a non-profit basis throughout the Intermountain West region of the USA. It represents 48 members from Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming as well as from Utah. Members choose which UAMPS projects they participate in according to their need: "more than two dozen" of UAMPS' members are currently participating in the CFPP, according to NuScale.

The cost estimate, developed within the guidelines of the Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering, outlines the impact inflation and a changing financial market has had on the CFPP and is "consistent with the external cost pressures applied to all forms of energy projects nationwide," Hopkins said. "From wind and solar to hydrogen and nuclear energy, inflation has impacted the costs of new energy projects in a way that we have not seen for more than 40 years. In addition, the referenced interest rate used for the project's cost modelling has increased approximately 200 basis points since July 2022," he added.

A preliminary update to the so-called Class 3 project cost estimate has been disclosed to those UAMPS members that have committed to participate in the CFPP, Hopkins said. "What's important to understand about the current Class 3 cost estimate is that it reflects the changing landscape for the development of energy projects nationwide and is primarily influenced by external factors, not by the project's development or by a change in the cost competitiveness of NuScale's scope of the project. Furthermore, the CFPP has matured to face, understand, and address these challenges that other similar technologies and generation options must also face."

The cost estimates have not been publicly disclosed, but according to the minutes of a meeting of one of the participants - Idaho Falls Power - held in October, preliminary estimates were expected to breach the projected/contracted USD58 per megawatt-hour above which an "offramp" decision could be made.

"At NuScale, we are prepared to help customers evaluate how inflationary pressures can impact potential clean energy projects," Hopkins said. NuScale is the first and, so far, only SMR design approved by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and earlier this year the regulator issued the Final Safety Evaluation Report regarding NuScale's Emergency Planning Zone methodology, he said, describing this as " another tremendous 'first' for NuScale's technology".

Researched and written by World Nuclear News