Carbon Free Power Project Advances

New small nuclear reactors could replace financially troubled larger units as the future design of choice.

America’s first small modular nuclear reactor project is on track and moving swiftly toward a 2026 operational date for the first module.

The Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP), owned by the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS), began investigating development of an SMR project several years ago. It has been a long road for the relatively small consortium of municipal power agencies scattered across several western states.

Doug Hunter

Doug Hunter, CEO & General Manager, Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems.

The project has strong support from dedicated partners, including NuScale Power, the U.S. Department of Energy, Idaho National Laboratory, Energy Northwest, Tennessee Valley Authority, and especially the mayors, city council members and power boards of UAMPS members.

The project, which will replace UAMPS’ coal-fired electrical generation, has stayed on schedule and the components of a successful project are being assembled. However, UAMPS has not made a final decision to build the project. Exit ramps exist for members, and project viability will be evaluated right up to the point that construction starts.

The project, which will replace UAMPS’ coal-fired electrical generation, has stayed on schedule and the components of a successful project are being assembled. However, UAMPS has not made a final decision to build the project. Exit ramps exist for members, and project viability will be evaluated right up to the point that construction starts.


“Most realistic energy experts agree that carbon-free nuclear power must play a key role in an energy-hungry world.”


Some important external factors have focused national and international attention on this SMR project. The most important is the intense worldwide concern about climate change and the need to reduce carbon emissions. Most realistic energy experts agree that carbon-free nuclear power must play a key role in an energy-hungry world. But some of the new large-reactors have been plagued by cost and schedule overruns.

CFPP represents new-generation nuclear that is safer, cost-effective, faster to construct and more flexible. CFPP is also a hedge against a carbon tax, now being seriously considered by policy-makers, that could price both coal and natural gas out of the market.

 

A second factor that has piqued significant interest in CFPP is the desire of U.S. business and political officials to maintain leadership in nuclear technology, science and commerce. Russia and China are aggressively developing next generation nuclear technology and are marketing their technology across the world. CFPP represents an opportunity for the United States to remain competitive in the international advanced nuclear technology marketplace.

In addition to those factors, NuScale’s SMR technology can nicely complement renewable energy resources like wind and solar. With 12 modules, each of which can be ramped up and down, as needed, to complement the variability – known and unknown – of renewable sources.  This inherent flexibility of the NuScale SMR will increase renewable market share without increasing costs, CO2 emissions or grid instability.

The Carbon Free Power Project has made significant progress. Here are some milestones:

  • Siting: In February 2016, the U.S. Department of Energy issued a site use permit to UAMPS’ CFPP at Idaho National Laboratory (INL) for the purposes of identifying potential locations for the SMR power plant. UAMPS has performed siting studies, and remains on track to commence site preparation in 2021.
  • Licensing: Initial licensing activities are underway with the expectation that Combined License Application (COLA) preparation – including identification of the preferred project site – will be started in late 2018 and completed in 2020.
  • Power Sales Contract: Thirty UAMPS members have approved Power Sales Contracts (PSCs) for the project with several more members and non-members actively considering approval. Upon achieving sufficient PSCs, the project will proceed with development of a COLA for submittal to the NRC.
  • INL Power Purchase: In addition to UAMPS membership PSCs, INL has expressed interest in a power purchase agreement for one module for electric power to serve the existing INL load, and discussions are underway to utilize another module to support the INL’s nuclear technology research and development missions.
  • Construction and Operation Timeline: UAMPS remains on track to commence construction (first safety-related concrete) in 2023, with commercial operation of the first module in 2026, with the full 12-module plant operational by 2027.
  • TVA Update: Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is pursuing an early site permit for SMRs at its Clinch River site. TVA has entered into an agreement with UAMPS to support UAMPS’ work to characterize the site at INL and develop a COLA for submittal to the NRC.

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