- The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced last week it reached an agreement that could support the siting of an "innovative small modular reactor" within DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory (INL) site, the Associated Press reports.
- Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) will have access to the INL site in order to analyze environmental, safety, and siting conditions, DOE said, the first of many permits that would be required to eventually develop a new reactor.
- UAMPS announced last year that it would partner with NuScale Power to develop a small modular reactor capable of providing 600 MW of nuclear baseload.
- A DOE official called smaller nuclear reactors an "important new step toward safe, reliable, carbon-free technology." The federal government plans to spend more than $450 million to get licensing of the smaller facilities up and running.
Development of smaller nuclear reactors is slowly moving forward, and even last week's announcement the DOE had tapped UAMPS to assess potential locations in the INL is just an incremental step. But the company told the Associated Press that demand for the carbon-free generation appears plentiful.
The partnership with NuScale envisioned a dozen 50 MW reactors, combining to reach the 600 MW mark, and “anecdotally, there appears to be enough interest that all 12 would be built,” UAMPS spokesman LaVarr Webb told the AP.
UAMPS provides power to 45 community systems in from Utah, Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Wyoming. If the company moves forward with development, it said last year it expects to spend roughly two years developing a 40,000-page application and would be aim to bring the unit online around 2023.
The UAMPS Carbon Free Power Project is a commercial venture on a federal compound, according to the DOE, and the successful development of small nuclear reactors "would provide U.S. utilities with a greater range of nuclear energy options to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gases."
The reactors typically feature compact, scalable designs which DOE believes could potentially supply low-carbon baseload energy to small electric systems and in areas where larger reactors cannot be constructed.