- NuScale Power announced this week that it had made a "breakthrough" in the design and optimization of its small modular nuclear reactor (SMR) design now going through the regulatory process. The improvements can add up to 20% more power than originally expected.
- The Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently completed the first phase in the design certification application (DCA) process for NuScale's design. The smaller reactors are considered one way of reviving the nuclear industry in the United States.
- According to NuScale, boosting the capacity of a 12-module NuScale SMR plant by 20% will lower the cost of the facility from $5,000/kW to $4,200/kW, with minimal changes to capital costs.
The announcement is good news for the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS), the first customer for NuScale's proposed reactor.
"This substantial reduction in cost per kilowatt is not only incredibly good news for the country's first SMR plant, which we are thrilled to be deploying, but also because it will increase the value of our plant over time," UAMPS CEO Doug Hunter said in a statement.
NuScale said "advanced testing and modeling tools" helped the company to "identify optimization opportunities and increased power generation."
Based on a 12-module SMR plant, which UAMPS will be deploying, NuScale said a 20% boost in power lowers the company's levelized cost of electricity by up to 18%, "making it even more competitive with other electricity generation sources."
The advances increase the gross-output of the project to 720 MWe from 600 MWe.
NuScale said the 20% power increase will be reviewed separately and is not expected to impact the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's current design review, which is slated for a decision in September 2020.
The company also noted that since it has made the changes before any plant construction or equipment manufacture, "UAMPS will reap the benefit of this optimization without licensing or construction delays."
Behemoth nuclear plants have struggled to compete against cheap natural gas in some markets, and their costly design and construction has tamped down interest in new development. A new generation of SMRs is hoped to revive the sector.
The plants could start at $1 billion to $1.5 billion to construct, according to some experts.
The U.S. Department of Energy has a development partnership with NuScale, and the federal government has committed $200 million for development. NuScale expects its first reactors to be operational in 2026.