NuScale cancels first planned SMR nuclear project due to lack of interest

Article by Adam Duckett

An artist’s rendering of NuScale's SMR facility

NUSCALE has cancelled the first project for its pioneering small modular nuclear reactor (SMR) technology because too few customers signed up to receive its power amid rising costs.

NuScale is the only company to have received design approval from US regulators for an SMR, a smaller form of reactor that can be fully fabricated in a factory to reduce the costly overruns that occur with larger conventional nuclear plants.

The first plant, known as the Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP), was set for construction at the US Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory. It would have included six reactor modules generating a combined 462 MW of low carbon energy and had planned to begin operations in 2030. However, the company says there has not been enough interest from utilities across western states to continue the project.

The DoE has provided more than US$600m in funding since 2014 for NuScale and others to develop SMR technology. A spokesperson said: “We believe the work accomplished to date on CFPP will be valuable for future nuclear energy projects,” Reuters reports.

“While not every project is guaranteed to succeed, DoE remains committed to doing everything we can to deploy these technologies to combat the climate crisis and increase access to clean energy.”

 NuScale executives said the decision to cancel the project was disappointing but optimism remains about the future of the technology and its application around the world.

“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 CEO John Hopkins.

Last year, NuScale and Romania’s RoPower started front-end engineering and design work to build a 462 MW plant in the country by the end of the decade. It is also working with Canada’s Prodigy to explore how SMRs could be developed into a marine-based nuclear powerplant system. In October, NuScale announced plans to use its SMRs to provide energy for two Standard Power data facilities in the US. NuScale and its commercialisation partner Entra1 say that the factory-fabricated modular reactors are well positioned to provide power directly to industrial operations including semiconductor manufacturing, desalination plants, process heat generators, and hydrogen production.

Critics argue that the technology is unproved, produces radioactive waste, and will be too slow and costly compared to renewable options which are available to deploy now. NuScale announced at the start of the year that the target cost of power from CFPP had climbed 53% since 2021 to US$89/ MWh.

The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis warned that “no one should fool themselves into believing this will be the last cost increase” given the additional design, licensing and testing needed, on top of inflation.

Article by Adam Duckett

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