UAMPS downsizes NuScale SMR plans

July 21, 2021, 7:06AMNuclear News
A still image from a three-part video tour of NuScale’s facilities. (Photos: NuScale Power)

When Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) in 2015 announced its plan to develop the Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP) using NuScale Power’s modular light water reactor design, it envisioned the construction of a dozen 50-MWe modules for a plant that could produce a total of 600 MWe. The CFPP’s target output later rose to 720 MWe, when UAMPS opted to scale up to 60-MWe modules. In late June, the plans changed once again, as UAMPS participants chose to build 77-MWe modules but downsize the plant from 12 units to six, which would yield 462 MWe—about 64 percent of the 720 MWe that could have been generated from 12 of the 60-MWe modules.

While details and deadlines have shifted since 2015, at least one thing has not changed: The CFPP is still planned for construction on Idaho National Laboratory land in eastern Idaho. In October 2020, the Department of Energy awarded a $1.4-billion, multiyear cost-share award to Carbon Free Power Project LLC, a new business entity wholly owned by UAMPS, for the development and construction of the CFPP.

UAMPS members weigh their options: The CFPP had 33 participants (also termed as subscribers) in the project in October 2020 when the DOE funding was announced. That number has since been reduced. “There are 28 project participants, with a number of outside utilities expected to join the project over the next several months to reach full subscription,” UAMPS spokesperson LaVarr Webb told Nuclear News. UAMPS members can choose to add or reduce their subscription amount at certain predetermined project milestones.

According to a July 16 article in Idaho’s Post Register, the current 28 subscribers have committed to a total of 103 MW, and the energy cost that project partners expect to pay following the switch to six 77-MW modules has risen from $55/MWh to $58/MWh. Two years ago, in July 2019, UAMPS member subscriptions for CFPP electricity exceeded 150 MWe.

Ready for a COLA: “The project is in great shape and is on schedule,” Webb said. “We are entering the next phase of COLA preparation, which is a big step forward.” UAMPS plans to submit the combined license application (COLA) to the NRC in 2024. “Construction start will depend more on how long the COLA review takes, but the change from 12 modules to six is not expected to delay the overall schedule. The first module is still scheduled to be operational in 2029, and the full plant in 2030.”

January 2021 estimates from NuScale targeted COLA submission by the second quarter of 2023 and indicated that the completion of the NRC’s review would be expected by the second half of 2025. Given the switch in module size and the indication by UAMPS of a 2024 COLA submission date—roughly one year later than NuScale’s stated target of the second quarter of 2023—the CFPP partners may be anticipating the completion of the NRC’s COLA review in mid-2026.

Design certification: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued a final safety evaluation report for a 50-MWe version of the NuScale design in August 2020, and that news, coming just prior to a contractual deadline for UAMPS member participation in the project, initiated a flurry of activity in August and September 2020.

On July 1 of this year, the NRC issued a proposed rule for NuScale design certification and requested comments from the public on the reactor’s design control document and environmental assessment. Comments are being accepted through August 30.

NuScale’s plans to apply for standard approval of a design incorporating larger modules will require additional NRC review and further investment by NuScale and its majority investor, Fluor Corporation. Currently, Fluor and NuScale (as a subcontractor to Fluor) are working to “manage and de-risk” the development of the CFPP by developing higher maturity cost estimates and initial project planning work for licensing, manufacturing, and construction.

NuScale looks beyond CFPP: While NuScale Power, headquartered in Portland, Ore., still expects the CFPP to be its first operating plant, the list of current projects on NuScale’s website suggests that the company is taking a modular approach to deployment, as well as to design.

NuScale recently announced that it had signed memorandums of understanding with Bulgaria’s Kozloduy nuclear power plant, Canada’s Prodigy Clean Energy, and Washington state’s Grant County Public Utility District—the same utility participating in the deployment of X-energy’s high-temperature gas-cooled Xe-100 full-scale demonstration. NuScale Power has also announced investments by Japanese and Korean companies in recent months.

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