The Logan City Council voted to end its partnership in the NuScale SMR Project with Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) and now Oregon-based, NuScale Power, has learned that UAMPS needs to push back their operational timeline, for the 1st of its 12 units, from 2026 to 2029. This moves completion for plant – 12 individual 60-megawatt SMR’s (small modular reactors) – by 3 years to 2030.
NuScale Power had expected to be the first in the United States to build and operate an SMR with Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems as their client. UAMPS is a group of small, community-owned utilities located within six Western states, but based on a recent assessment, they believe their need for around-the-clock, zero-carbon electricity will not be needed 2030.
UAMPS will meet in September to approve their budget and they are still discussing plans for NuScale. This move by Logan City might change their outlook all together but for now, things look somewhat hopeful. They applied for a $1.4 billion grant from the DOE (Department of Energy) and these negotiations are critical to their decision. UAMPS will need this grant in order to defray the rising costs associated with this project. LaVarr Webb, UAMPS’s spokesman, said the grant is “very important for the success of this project” and suggested that UAMPS could pull out if it doesn’t get this funding.
The Energy Department has already demonstrated their interest – investing more than $300 million into NuScale since 2014 and they have signed-on to purchase power from two of the 12 reactors, planned for location at a site within Idaho National Laboratory (INL). Mark Menezes, the newly confirmed Energy Department Deputy Secretary, told the Washington Examiner that the agency remains committed to NuScale and is supportive of the partnership with UAMPS, but he could not comment on negotiations over the $1.4 billion grant.
However, the Deputy Secretary did acknowledge that the timeline delay could be troubling for the project, as the regulatory process for reactor certification and licensing is much more costly than the upfront costs for other zero-carbon options. In addition, he noted that there are a number of other SMR’s at various stages of development, working with the DOE, so all is not riding on NuScale. One of these SMR’s is the California-based Oklo – 1.5-megawatt advanced reactor design. You might recall our article about this design in our August 2020 newsletter, on page 5. This design does not use water as a coolant and its application was recently accepted by the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) for the process of receiving certification.
Most nuclear advocates, see NuScale as the top contender, because NuScale is further ahead in the permitting process with the NRC their design is based on light-water reactors, the most common design used in U.S. nuclear plants – already proven safe and reliable.