A new budget plan has been approved for deployment of US NuScale Power’s small modular reactor (SMR) technology as part of the Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP). The Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) launched the CFPP in 2015 as part of its long-term strategy to reduce carbon emissions and replace ageing coal-fired plants with a carbon-free fuel, and small-to-full-sized, flexible power generating source.
The Project Management Committee (PMC) for the CFPP) has now reaffirmed its commitment to NuScale’s SMR technology by approving a new Budget and Plan of Finance (BPF) and an update to the Development Cost Reimbursement Agreement (DCRA). The project calls for constructing a NuScale SMR at the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Idaho National Laboratory (INL) site.
UAMPS, a consortium of 48 public power utilities with service areas in eight western states, is currently active on the CFPP site performing site characterisation activities. In January 2021, UAMPS and NuScale executed agreements to help manage and de-risk the development of the CFPP. Pursuant to initial orders from UAMPS, Fluor Corporation and NuScale (as a subcontractor to Fluor) agreed to develop higher maturity cost estimates and initial project planning work for the licensing, manufacturing, and construction of the CFPP. These agreements sere seen as an important step in a deployment plan that was expected to result in an order for NuScale modules by UAMPS in 2022.
The NuScale Power Module (NPM), a small, 77 MWe pressurised water reactor that can be scaled to meet customer needs. The NPM is the only SMR design to receive US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approval. NRC issued a Final Safety Evaluation Report for the design in September 2020 after which NuScale announced an increase in capacity of the design to 77 MWe from the previously envisaged 60 MWe. NuScale has now submitted an application for Standard Design Approval of the updated design, based on a six-module plant configuration.
The CFPP is expected to comprise several modules. UAMPS says it is still evaluating options for power plant size, including the 4-pack, 6-pack, 8-pack or 12-pack module configurations, to ensure the best overall cost of energy to meet energy needs of its members. According to UAMPS, the CFPP will enable its members to add significantly higher amounts of intermittent renewable energy, especially wind and solar, to energy portfolios. “The CFPP, combined with renewables, will enable many members to completely decarbonise their energy portfolios,” it notes.
NuSale says the BFP approval is a “key milestone” that was reached with the receipt and acceptance of the CFPP’s Class 3 Project Cost Estimate (PCE), which further refines the anticipated total cost of the project. As part of the PCE, NuScale worked with its UAMPS partners to update the BPF, which is designed to manage and reduce risk to CFPP participants. The BPF provides UAMPS with an option to withdraw from the project and be reimbursed for most out-of-pocket expenses if the CFPP’s price of energy per MWh exceeds a certain threshold. The new DCRA that was approved by the PMC also establishes an updated target price of $89 per MWh, “which reflects the changing financial landscape for the development of energy projects nationwide”. NuScale and the CFPP have yet to execute the amendment to the DCRA adopting the new price target.
The Class 3 PCE determined that the cost of the CFPP has been influenced by external factors such as inflationary pressures and increases in the price of steel, electrical equipment and other construction commodities not seen for more than 40 years. These inflationary pressures are increasing the costs for all power generation and infrastructure projects, NuScale notes.
CFPP Project Director Shawn Hughes in December provided an update of development of the Combined Operating Licence Application (COLA) for the project - the largest CFPP task currently underway. He said delivery of the COLA to NRC is scheduled for January 2024. COLA section reviews are slightly behind schedule, but will be brought up to date over the next several months. The three parts of the COLA total many volumes, he noted. The safety analysis report and environmental sections will be very comprehensive. Formal and informal interactions are underway with NRC.