US government backs NuScale projects at home and abroad

19 October 2020

The US Department of Energy has approved a cost-share award of more than USD1 billion for the construction of the first NuScale small modular reactor power plant in the USA. Meanwhile, the US International Development Finance Corporation has signed a Letter of Intent to support NuScale in the development of nuclear generating capacity in South Africa.

How a NuScale SMR plant could look (Image: NuScale)

Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) announced on 16 October that the DOE had approved a USD1.355 billion cost-share award, allocated over 10 years, to a new special purpose entity named the Carbon Free Power Project, LLC. This is an entity wholly-owned by UAMPS for the development and construction of the Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP), a 720 MWe NuScale power plant to be located at the DOE's Idaho National Laboratory site. Electricity from the plant will be distributed to customers of 33 of UAMPS member utilities in five states. Other western utilities are expected to join the project in the future.

"This award will serve as a funding vehicle to advance the CFPP as funds are appropriated by Congress," UAMPS said. "The award demonstrates the importance of the CFPP, which will be the first NuScale small modular nuclear reactor project in the United States. The award also demonstrates DOE's commitment to accelerate the decarbonisation of electrical generation nationwide and globally, and to support stable, carbon-free electrical supply to complement intermittent renewable energy."

The award, UAMPS said, will fund the one-time costs for the first-of-a-kind project, as funds are appropriated by Congress, to reflect what second and subsequent NuScale plants would cost. "This will help ensure that the levelised cost of energy target price of USD55 per MWh can be achieved at a level of risk UAMPS can manage."

UAMPS CEO and General Manager Douglas Hunter said: "It is entirely appropriate for DOE to help de-risk this first-of-a-kind, next-generation nuclear project. This is a great example of a partnership with DOE to lower the cost of introduction of transformative advanced nuclear technology that will provide affordable, carbon-free electricity all over the country and the world. This project is much bigger than UAMPS itself."

UAMPS said the 12 SMRs in the project will provide the flexibility to ramp up and down as needed to follow load and complement intermittent renewable supply. Energy from the project will replace electric generation from coal plants that are nearing the end of their life cycles. The CFPP, combined with UAMPS renewable projects, will enable many members to completely decarbonise their energy portfolios, it added.

Hunter said, "The ideal world for utility companies and their customers, and the most cost-effective, are portfolios containing a high percentage of low-cost renewables, backed up by stable, carbon-free nuclear energy that is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year."

Last month, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued a standard design approval to NuScale Power, LLC for the NuScale SMR. This allows the design to be referenced in applications for construction, operating and manufacturing licences and permits in the USA. Site-specific licensing procedures must still be completed and a combined construction and operating licence obtained before any construction can begin.

South African plant

The US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) also announced on 16 October the signing of a Letter of Intent to help NuScale develop 2500 MWe of nuclear energy in South Africa.

It was one of a number of announcements made by DFC following the Investing in Africa's Future conference, jointly hosted with the Atlantic Council. The aim of the virtual conference was to bring together African heads of state, senior US government officials, African development finance institutions and others to announce new efforts to promote and strengthen US trade and investment in Africa.

"If successful, NuScale would be the first US nuclear energy IPP on the continent and would help support energy resilience and security in one of Africa's leading economies and a key partner on the continent for the United States government," DFC said.

In July, the USA lifted its legacy prohibition on funding nuclear energy projects overseas with the DFC - the country's development bank - updating and modernising its nuclear energy policy. This had previously categorically prohibited it from investing in the production of, or trade in, radioactive materials, including nuclear reactors and their components. The DFC works in partnership with the private sector to finance solutions to challenges facing developing countries, and invests across a range of sectors.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News