NuScale Power's headquarters in Tigard, Oregon
|Founded||Corvallis, Oregon, USA|
|Founder||Paul G. Lorenzini and Jose Reyes|
|Headquarters||Tigard, OR 97224|
|John Hopkins (CEO)|
|Products||Small Modular Reactors (SMR)|
NuScale Power is a private limited liability company headquartered in Tigard, Oregon that designs and markets small modular reactors (SMRs). As of 2014, the Department of Energy projected its technology would be commercially available around the year 2025.
NuScale was founded based on research funded by the Department of Energy from 2000 to 2003. After funding was cut, scientists with the program obtained related patents in 2007 and started NuScale to commercialize the technology. In 2011, the company's largest investor had its assets frozen due to an investigation by the Securities Exchange Commission. The company experienced financial hardship until new funding was obtained from Fluor Corporation and later from the Department of Energy. NuScale is currently planning the first NuScale power plant in Idaho.
NuScale's SMR designs are for 9 feet (2.7 m) diameter by 65 feet (20 m) high reactor vessels that use conventional light water cooling methods. Each module is intended to be kept in an underground pool and is expected to produce about 50 megawatts of electricity. It uses passive water-circulation that can operate without powered pumps or circulatory equipment.
NuScale was founded based on research funded by the US Department of Energy and conducted by Oregon State University, the Idaho National Laboratory, and other colleges beginning in 2000. At the time, Oregon State's nuclear department had been developing passive water-circulation techniques for cooling in nuclear plants. The research grant ended in 2003, but a group of scientists at Oregon State University continued the work. They built a test lab at one-third the actual scale of the technology and inherited related patents from the university in 2007, in exchange for a small equity in the company. NuScale was founded that same year. Its first funding round was in January 2008 for an undisclosed sum. It began seeking certification with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in February 2008.
By 2011, NuScale had raised $35 million in financing and had 100 employees in three cities: Tigard, Oregon; Richland, Washington; and Corvallis, Oregon. NuScale was the first to submit plans for small reactors to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and is widely expected to be the first to get government approval. It was also being evaluated by a consortium of utility companies called Energy Northwest.
Funding difficulties and rebound
In January 2011, NuScale's largest investor, Kenwood Group, was investigated by the Securities Exchange Commission and later plead guilty to operating a Ponzi scheme. The SEC investigation was not related to any of Kenwood's dealings with NuScale, but Kenwood's assets were frozen just as NuScale was expecting additional funding. The company started making staffing and pay cuts as executives looked for new funding sources and most of the company's employees were laid off within a few months.
That September, NuScale obtained a loan to re-hire 60 employees. In October, Fluor acquired a majority interest in the company for $3.5 million and promised almost $30 million in working capital. According to The Energy Daily, Fluor's investment saved the company, which had been "financially marooned" by its prior investor. A separate agreement also gave Fluor the rights to construct NuScale-based power plants.
In August 2012, Rolls-Royce Holdings said it would support NuScale's commercialization efforts and help it obtain funding from the Department of Energy's Funding Opportunity Announcement, which is intended to provide funding to help bring SMRs to market. It was not awarded any funding in the first round. In the Department of Energy's (DOE) second round of funding in December 2013, NuScale won up to $226 million in "cost-sharing" funding to share the expense of pursuing government approval, through the SMR Licensing Technical Support program. This was followed by an agreement in May 2014 for up to $217 million in funding over a five-year period, whereby the Department of Energy would match private funding. In December 2012, co-founder and CEO Paul G. Lorenzini was succeeded by current CEO John Hopkins.
In March 2012, NuScale signed an agreement with the Department of Energy, allowing NuScale and two partners to build and operate a NuScale-based nuclear power plant at the Savannah River Site. The following month Energy Northwest said it didn't have any immediate plans to construct a nuclear power plant, but had evaluated all the available SMR technologies and identified NuScale as the best available option at the time.
In July 2013, NuScale announced an effort to study and demonstrate NuScale reactors in the western United States, called Program WIN (Western Initiative for Nuclear), with plans to build the first NuScale-based power plant in the western United States by 2024. In November 2014, NuScale announced it was building what is expected to be the first SMR in the US in Idaho. The plant is for the Carbon Free Power Project with Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems. The company submitted designs to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in January 2017, and if approved hopes to complete its first plan in 2026.
NuScale designs and markets small modular nuclear reactors that the Department of Energy expects to be commercially available around 2025. Its designs use the light water approach to cooling and power generation that is common in conventional nuclear plants. Water is heated by the nuclear core at the base of the reactor vessel. Heated water flows upwards inside the riser, then down over steam generators. As heat is transferred to steam generators, the water becomes cooler and denser, sinking back to the bottom of the device, where the cycle is repeated. Heat transferred to the steam generators is used to create steam that turns a turbine, which drives an electrical generator.
Each NuScale reactor vessel is expected to be 9 feet diameter (2.74 meters) by 65 feet high (19.81 meters) and weigh 650 tons (590 metric tons). The modules would be pre-fabricated, delivered by railcar, barge or special trucks and assembled on-site. The units are designed to produce 50 megawatts.[lower-alpha 1] of electricity each and require refueling with standard 4.95 percent enriched Uranium-235 fuel every two years.
NuScale's design does not rely on powered water pumps or circulatory equipment. The company claims it can shut down and continue cooling itself indefinitely in the event of a catastrophe.[lower-alpha 2] The devices are intended to be kept in a below-ground pool, to absorb the shock of earthquakes, with a concrete lid over the pool. In the event that AC power is lost for normal cooling systems, the pool water begins to absorb heat and boil.
NuScale is expected to be the first SMR to market, because its cooling is similar to the systems used in conventional power plants. However, alternative cooling systems using molten metals are expected to operate at higher, more efficient temperatures once approved. The company estimates a twelve-unit NuScale plant would cost $5,000 per kilowatt. In comparison, the Energy Information Administration in 2011 estimated costs to be $4,700 per kilowatt for conventional nuclear power, $4,600 for a carbon sequestration coal plant and $931 at a gas-fired plant or in excess of $1,800 for a gas-fired plant with carbon sequestration. David Mohre, executive director of NRECA's Energy and Power Division, said SMR's like NuScale's are ideal for rural towns that need small power plants and do not have access to natural gas. NuScale power plants are also expected to take less time, materials and space to construct than other power sources and can be expanded incrementally to meet changing power needs.
NuScale has offices in Tigard, Oregon (near Portland); Corvallis, Oregon; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Rockville, Maryland. Its headquarters are in Tigard and its production facility is located in Corvallis. It maintains a test facility at Oregon State University, as well as two additional test facilities in Italy.
- Previously 45 megawatts
- Most sources say indefinitely, but NBC News reported 30 days.
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