UAMPS and NuScale drop plans to build SMRs at INL

November 9, 2023, 12:00PMNuclear News
Concept art of the six-module CFPP at INL, terminated before construction could begin. (Image: NuScale)

Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) and NuScale Power announced November 8 that they have mutually agreed to end the Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP)—a plan to build a set of 77-MWe pressurized water reactors, called NuScale Power Modules, at Idaho National Laboratory. The reactors were intended to provide power to INL and UAMPS customers in Utah and surrounding states with an anticipated start date of 2029.

According to the announcement, “Despite significant efforts by both parties to advance the CFPP, it appears unlikely that the project will have enough subscription to continue toward deployment. Therefore, UAMPS and NuScale have mutually determined that ending the project is the most prudent decision for both parties.”

An economic reckoning: The CFPP’s latest monthly update, released in October, said the project was on schedule and was approaching an “economic competitive test” in November.

“During the Project Management Committee (PMC) meeting held in October, CFPP project director Shawn Hughes delivered a comprehensive project update,” the update stated. “Dr. Hughes reported that CFPP has met or exceeded all planned milestones to date. Furthermore, he assured the PMC that the combined license application (COLA) is progressing as planned and is on track for submission in January 2024. . . . As the team finalizes the COLA, the next crucial step for the project is to meet the commercial readiness criteria related to cost and subscription. With inputs from Fluor and NuScale, all sections of the Class 2 project cost estimate (PCE2) have been compiled and are currently under review. The CFPP team is in the process of preparing for the economic competitive test to determine the estimated cost of energy. The test will incorporate various economic factors, including the Inflation Reduction Act, PCE2, and contingencies related to construction and licensing. CFPP aims to provide this information to the PMC in November.”

UAMPS’ official word: UAMPS is an interlocal agency of the state of Utah and “a project-based energy services entity” providing power supply, transmission, and other services to its 50 members, which include public power utilities in seven western states: Utah, Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wyoming. Those members had the option to subscribe to the CFPP and also to leave the project via planned “off-ramp” opportunities.

“This decision is very disappointing given the years of pioneering hard work put into the CFPP by UAMPS, CFPP LLC, NuScale, U.S. Department of Energy, and the UAMPS member communities that took the leadership role to launch the CFPP,” said UAMPS chief executive officer and general manager Mason Baker. “Yet, this decision is the best course for the UAMPS members participating in the CFPP and doing what is best for those member communities will always be the guiding light in such decisions.

“We hope NuScale is successful in deploying its technology,” Baker said, adding, “We are working closely with NuScale and the U.S. Department of Energy on next steps to wind the project down.”

NuScale looks ahead: NuScale Power is shifting its focus to other potential customers.

“Through our work with UAMPS and our partnership with the Department of Energy, we have advanced our NuScale Power Modules to the point that utilities, governments, and industrials can rely on a proven small modular reactor technology that has regulatory approval and is in active production. Our work with CFPP over the past ten years has advanced NuScale technology to the stage of commercial deployment; reaching that milestone is a tremendous success which we will continue to build on with future customers,” said NuScale president and CEO John Hopkins. “NuScale will continue with our other domestic and international customers to bring our American SMR technology to market and grow the U.S. nuclear manufacturing base, creating jobs across the U.S. We thank UAMPS for the collaboration that has enabled this advancement.”

How did we get here? Here’s a brief look at key developments for the CFPP.

2015—UAMPS announced a plan to develop a power plant using NuScale technology with a dozen 50-MWe modules that could produce a total of 600 MWe.

October 2020—The DOE approved a $1.4-billion, multiyear cost-share award to CFPP LLC, a business entity wholly owned by UAMPS and created to develop and build a 12-module, 720-MWe NuScale power plant at INL.

June 2021—UAMPS participants changed the plan to build 12 modules, instead electing to build six larger (77-MWe) modules, which would yield 462 MWe—about 64 percent of the 720 MWe that could have been generated from 12 60-MWe modules.

January 2023—The Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued its final rule certifying NuScale’s SMR design—the first to be certified by the agency.

July 2023—CFPP LLC applied to the NRC for a limited work authorization (LWA) to permit certain early project construction activities prior to the issuance of a combined license. The company submitted the LWA application as the first part of the project’s COLA, with submission of the second part of the project’s COLA planned for January 2024.

September 2023—The NRC docketed CFPP’s application for a LWA and set an end date for review of August 2025.

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