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DOE to provide up to half the cost of NuScale small modular reactor project

12 December 2013

The US Department of Energy (DOE) announced an award to NuScale Power LLC to support a new project to design, certify and help commercialize innovative small modular reactors (SMRs) in the United States. Through a five-year cost-share agreement, DOE will invest up to half of the total project cost, with the project’s industry partners matching this investment by at least one-to-one. The specific total will be negotiated between the Energy Department and NuScale and will be derived from the total $452 million identified for the Department’s Small Modular Reactor Licensing Technical Support program.

This project represents a significant investment in first-of-a-kind engineering and design certification for small modular reactors in the United States. The award follows a funding opportunity announcement in March 2013. (Earlier post.)

The Energy Department investment will help NuScale obtain Nuclear Regulatory Commission design certification and achieve commercial operation around 2025, while providing innovative and effective solutions for enhanced reactor safety, operations and performance.

The Energy Department’s cooperative agreements require that the reactors be built domestically. The project will be based in Oregon and will support additional suppliers and operations in California, Idaho, Washington, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, Kansas, Texas and Maryland.

Small modular reactors—approximately one-third the size of current nuclear power plants—have compact, scalable designs that are expected to offer a host of safety, construction and economic benefits, DOE said. The Energy Department is seeking small modular reactor designs that can be made in factories and transported to sites where they would be ready for installation upon arrival. The smaller size could reduce both capital costs and construction times—helping to provide U.S. utilities with more nuclear energy options and support new low-carbon capacity for small electric grids and locations that cannot support the traditional large reactor designs.

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Mainframes, minis, PC networks, internet.. but none of them lethally radiated for multi-thousand year half-lives.

Maybe keeping the nuclear reactor 93 million miles away is solar much better.

Kelly doesn't seem to realize that conventional and concentrating solar powerplants have lethal levels of thermal radiation, and the production of PV cells and rare-earth magnets leaves thousands of tons of toxic sludge that is not carefully isolated in Zircaloy the way nuclear fuel is.

The NuScale reactor is conventional in many ways, but there are other options such as Hyperion.  At 25 MW(e), the Hyperion will be suited to many locations now dependent on coal or even fuel oil.  The cost of electricity in Hawaii could be slashed if it added Hyperions to the grid for the base load.  No handling of fuel would be necessary on the islands; the modules would just be swapped out every 10 years or so.  NuScale would require the usual on-site fueling, cooling pools and the like.  That may be cheaper due to the huge amount of experience, but with all the FUD being spread by the usual suspects like Gundersen it may be politically simpler to move the problem elsewhere.

The idea of Small Modular Reactors is they can be built in factories and trucked to the site. That way much of the custom cost overruns can be avoided...in principle.

Until we reprocess fuel rods and use breeders, waste will be a problem. Reprocessing was thought to encourage proliferation but I would say just the opposite is the case.

Until we have a rational discussion of the realities, progress can not be made. Emotion has take over where rational thought should prevail. I hope we come to our senses soon.

One sure way to convince Americans that Nuke power plants are good for them and the country is to tell them that they would get half price (American) electricity for the next 50 years or so. Eighty+ % would support the program?

Money talks and GHG does not..

I have no objection to nuclear. But do we pay 1/2 the price of other technologies? I know 400 million is not huge, but it is not peanuts either. I would just like to see private industry put up the money for nuclear if it is such a good deal.

Nuclear pays the price of massive regulatory harassment.  Remove that, and the utility industry will buy it like hotcakes.

Diablo Canyon in California has been very profitable for PG&E, it was the one revenue source that saved them from the Enron robbery.

The unregulated 1836 Colt (and following 306,000,000 improved models) gave USA's dwellers the mean to legally get rid of people at the rate of 30,000+/year.

Unregulated junk food, energy drinks and 4000+ other unregulated products do at least 100 times better.

Unregulated nuclear power plants could do much better?

Sane regulation would do.  Sanity would include things like being able to install a modern off-the-shelf replacement part with a minimal engineering review, instead of having to go through several rounds with the office in Washington at $274/hour/head because it's not exactly the same as on the plans drawn up 3-4-5 decades ago.

This may be a lot like the price for a new ceiling light door switch for a Mercedes C-series @ $850 + taxes + installation, to maintain the car warrantee.

Reliable Airlines also have to live with strict regulations and have to use original more costly parts. Those that don't have up to 400% more accidents.

USA has a good record for nuclear power plants operations because of strict regulations. Relax the regulations and the quest for more profits would quickly change (lower) the existing safety record.

San Onofre had regulations, the utility declared the design change was not major and did not need approval. The change led to an extremely increased wear in the coolant tubes leading to a complete shut down.

Regulations are one thing, but if they are not enforced they do no good. Everyone has dealt with regulations that make no sense, but it is up to the people involved to improves those regulations so that they DO make sense, even if you have to take it public.

SJC, you might note that the almighty NRC didn't catch the deficiency in the fluid-flow model used to design the replacement steam generators.  Some other people did, and called for the simulation to be done correctly, but they were ignored.

You might also note two more important things:

  1. The NRC could have simply rubber-stamped an approval to operate San Onofre at 70% power, outside the region where the flow instabilities caused the problematic vibrations... and didn't.
  2. The leaks at San Onofre never presented any hazard to the public.  The risk was purely to the utility, so the NRC arguably shouldn't have been involved in the first place.

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