Federal funding agreed for NuScale

29 May 2014

NuScale will receive up to $217 million in funding over five years to develop its small modular reactor (SMR) under an agreement finalised with the US Department of Energy (DoE).

NuScale SMR cross section - 460
NuScale reactors are housed inside steel containment vessels and submerged in a large pool of water below ground level in the reactor building (Image: NuScale)

In December, DoE selected NuScale under a second SMR funding opportunity which will see the DoE invest up to half of the cost of developing, licensing and commercialising the reactor.

The DoE and NuScale have now officially signed a contract agreement for the funding, which calls for NuScale to receive up to $217 million in matching funds over five years. The funds 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.

NuScale said that it will use the funds to perform engineering and testing needed to proceed through the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC's) design certification process. It expects to submit it application for this in the second half of 2016. NuScale believes that its first planned project in Idaho, in partnership with Energy Northwest and Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, could begin commercial operation by 2023.

US energy and power company Fluor is NuScale's majority investor. Fluor's executive vice president for business development and strategy Dave Dunning commented, "After the competitive progress to receive the award and ultimate signing, DoE's significant investment in the technology is helping us show the value of NuScale's SMR to investors, manufacturers and other supply chain partners so that we can build the future of nuclear power."

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.

A first round of DoE SMR funding was awarded in November 2012 to Babcock & Wilcox (B&W) for its mPower design - a 180 MWe integral pressurized water reactor. However, having failed to find customers or investors, last month B&W announced it was slashing its spending on mPower from $150 million per year to a maximum of $15 million per year.

Various different SMR concepts are being developed around the world. At up to 300 MWe, they are around one-quarter 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.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News