Photo: Artist's impression of the NuScale SMR design (Photo: NuScale Power) US-based NuScale Power said on 10 November that it had re-assessed its existing reference plant design and would announce variations that offer increased per module power generating capacity and smaller scale plant options.

Through further value engineering efforts, NuScale analysed and concluded that the NuScale Power Module™ can generate an additional 25% more power per module for a total of 77MWe per module (gross), resulting in about 924MWe for the flagship 12-module power plant. Additionally, NuScale announced options for smaller power plant solutions in four-module (about 308MWe) and six-module (about 462MWe) sizes.

“These variations are intended to support a larger cross-section of customer needs including power for small grids such as remote off-grid communities, industrial and government facilities; and replacement of coal-fuelled generation,” NuScale said. “This advancement in design continues to demonstrate that NuScale is the global leader in the race to commercialise small modular reactors and can offer a solution that is suited to the Canadian market.”

“Without impacting the unparalleled safety of our design, our engineers have proven yet again that NuScale’s technology is first-class, and can offer significant cost-savings and customisation at a level yet to be seen in the nuclear energy market,” said NuScale Power chairman and CEO John Hopkins.

Increasing the power generating capacity of a 12-module NuScale small modular reactor (SMR) plant by an additional 25% lowers the overnight capital cost of the facility on a per kilowatt basis from an expected $3600 to approximately $2850. Furthermore, the scalable, 12-module power plant will now approach a size that makes it a true competitor for the gigawatt-size market. The increased power output comes without any major changes to the NPM technology, NuScale explained.

The smaller power plant solutions will give NuScale customers more options in terms of size, power output, operational flexibility, and cost. They will also have a smaller and innovative footprint with a focus on simplifying construction, reducing construction duration (schedule) and lowering costs. This new solution allows NuScale to support a larger cross-section of customer needs including power for small grids such as for island nations; remote off-grid communities; industrial and government facilities; and replacement of coal-fuelled generation that require less power and help customers meet clean air mandates.

“NuScale has heard from customers around the world, including in Canada, that there is need for and interest in smaller power plant solutions that meet their specific economic and power needs,” added Hopkins. “Our new four-module and six-module offerings, combined with the per module increase in power to 77MWe, provide that flexibility and choice without compromising on the benefits and features of our flagship 12-module design.”

The power increase will be reviewed by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) as part of NuScale’s Standard Design Approval (SDA) application, which NuScale is scheduled to submit in 2022. NuScale said smaller configurations of its power plant, “will retain the capability to deliver scalable power plant solutions with features, capability and performance not found in other SMRs”. NuScale expects to deliver its first module to a client in 2027.

US plans move forward

NuScale's first US customer is the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS), a project-based consortium set up in 1980, whose 47 members include community-owned utilities in six western states (Utah, California, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wyoming). UAMPS is planning construction of a 12-module SMR plant at a site at the Department of Energy (DOE) Idaho National Laboratory.

In October, the US approved a $1.355 billion cost-share award, allocated over ten years to a new special purpose entity named the Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP), wholly owned by UAMPS, for the NuScale project. The award will serve as a funding vehicle to advance the CFPP as funds are appropriated by Congress, UAMPS said.

NuScale’s reassessment came after potential customers pulled out of the project. At least eight of the 36 UAMPS public utilities that had signed on to help build the plant have backed out of the deal in recent weeks. On 28 October, Heber Light & Power in Utah withdrew from the project, just one day after utilities in the Utah communities of Bountiful and Beaver pulled out.

However, a spokesperson for UAMPS, LaVarr Webb, said the project is still "very much going forward." Although some UAMPS members have dropped out, “promising discussions are ongoing with a number of utilities to join the project or enter into power-purchase agreements”, Science reported.

The NuScale design is so far the only SMR to undergo NRC design certification review. The design certification process addresses safety issues associated the proposed design, and is valid for 15 years.

The NuScale SMR is also undergoing a vendor design review with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. NuScale has signed agreements with entities in the USA, Canada, Romania, the Czech Republic, and Jordan.

Photo: Artist's impression of the NuScale SMR design (Photo: NuScale Power)