NuScale cuts workers in move to “refocus”

January 8, 2024, 9:31AMNuclear News

NuScale announced today a 28 percent reduction in full-time staff, affecting 154 workers, as part of the company’s move to focus resources on “key strategic areas”— including deployment of its small modular reactor.

The Oregon-based company has been experiencing mounting costs on top of the recent cancellation of its first power plant, the Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP). In a news release posted early today, NuScale president and chief executive officer John Hopkins said, “Commercialization of our SMR technology is our key objective, which includes near-term deployment and manufacturing. We continue to invest in our future.”

A first: NuScale, the first company to receive a design certification from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for an SMR, announced in November that it was canceling the CFPP due to escalating project costs. That same month, X-energy, another promising SMR company, announced it was canceling plans to go public and then laid off about 100 staff.

In 2022, NuScale went public through a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) merger, which helps debt-laden startups pay back venture capitalists with a swifter-than-usual initial public offering on the stock market. But the latest quarterly earnings showed NuScale with just under $200 million in cash reserves, nearly 40 percent of which was tied up in restricted accounts.

According to the release, the company plans to pay first-quarter severance costs of roughly $3 million to those impacted; and it expects to save $50–60 million annually from the restructuring.

Rising construction costs across the country are challenging clean energy projects—especially nuclear, which has been plagued by lengthy and over-budget new construction projects in recent decades.

Looking ahead: Many are betting on SMRs as the future of nuclear in the United States and worldwide, because the technology can present out-of-the-box nuclear plant solutions for a simpler production cost with less risk.

The U.S. government is still banking on advanced reactors to help meet climate goals at home and abroad. At COP28 in Dubai last month, the Biden administration led the charge on a pledge to triple nuclear energy production worldwide in the next three decades.

Nuclear's role: More than 20 countries from four continents launched the Declaration to Triple Nuclear Energy, which recognizes the key role of nuclear energy in achieving global net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and keeping the 1.5°C goal within reach.

Also, President Biden has signed two infrastructure spending laws in recent years that earmark billions in spending to develop new reactors and keep existing plants open. And new bills in Congress to speed up U.S. nuclear deployments and sell more American reactors abroad are virtually all bipartisan, with progressives and conservatives alike expressing support for nuclear energy.

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