US-based NuScale Power announced on 16 August that it had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with energy utility Xcel Energy to explore the feasibility of Xcel Energy serving as a plant operator at NuScale Plants. NuScale is seeking an experienced nuclear plant operator to provide potential customers with the operational support needed to generate carbon-free energy using its advanced reactor technology.
NuScale has developed a small modular light water reactor nuclear power plant to supply energy for electrical generation, district heating, desalination, and other process heat applications. The NuScale Power Module is capable of generating 77MW of electricity using pressurised water reactor technology. NuScale's scalable design means a power plant can house up to four, six, or 12 individual power modules reducing the financial commitments associated with gigawatt-sized nuclear facilities.
Under the MOU, the two parties will examine the potential for Xcel Energy to become NuScale’s preferred partner to provide a suite of operational power plant services to NuScale customers based on Xcel Energy’s exceptional nuclear operational management systems. The MOU does not include a formal operating agreement, but it creates a framework for negotiating definitive agreements for Xcel Energy and NuScale to work together.
“As demand for carbon-free, reliable energy grows, NuScale continues to lead the pack as the most innovative, game-changing technology solution that can make a real difference for generations,” said NuScale Chairman and CEO John Hopkins. “This agreement underscores NuScale’s ability to provide our customers not just with technology but also with the world-class operational support needed to ensure that countries, governments, utilities, and customers can provide the clean energy solution our communities need to thrive.”
Xcel Energy, with more than 50 years’ experience operating nuclear plants, is the owner and operator of two of the highest performing NPPs in the USA, both in Minnesota. “As the first major energy provider to announce a 100% carbon-free vision, we understand the need for new technologies to meet the need for always on, carbon-free electricity,” said Pete Gardner, Xcel Energy’s senior vice president and chief nuclear officer. “We’re excited to explore a potential partnership with NuScale that advances the next generation of nuclear energy, a technology that has the potential to provide the reliable, carbon-free electricity needed for a clean energy future.”
NuScale’s SMR in August 2020 became the first SMR design to receive approval from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. NuScale and Fluor are currently working for Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) to commercialise the plant. In July 2021 NRC published the proposed final rule certifying the NuScale Plant design.