Participants in the Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP) being developed by Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) have agreed to continue the development and deployment of a small modular reactor project despite rising costs. UAMPS is a consortium of cities in Utah, Idaho, New Mexico and Nevada. CFPP Partners include NuScale Power (developer of the nuclear power modules), Fluor Corporation (construction and licensing contractor), and the US Department of Energy.

The CFPP Project Management Committee has now approved a new budget and plan of finance to support construction of a NuScale demonstration small modular reactor (SMR) at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL). The planned the six-reactor, 462 MWe CFPP is expected to begin operation in 2030.

In January, NuScale said the target price for power from the plant would be $89 per MWh, a 53% increase on the previous estimate of $58 per MWh. This had led to concerns that potential customers may be unwilling to pay so much for the power generated. UAMPS, however, approved the budget and finance plan with 26 of its 27 members supporting it. One participant reduced its subscription level and one substantially increasing its subscription. The consortium originally had 30 members but three have dropped out since 2020 in face of rising costs and delays.

In 2020, the US Department of Energy (DOE) approved $1.35bn over 10 years for the project, subject to congressional appropriations. Without extra subsidies from the new Inflation Reduction Act the price to energy users in some places would have doubled.

An application to construct and operate the plant is expected to be submitted to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) early next year. According to UAMPS CEO & General Manager Mason Baker, the cities felt the project remained viable because rising prices for steel, copper, and cable were not unique to NuScale. "The project will support our decarbonisation efforts, complement and enable more renewable energy, and keep the grid stable," Baker said. "It will produce steady, carbon-free energy for 40 years or longer.

Image: NuScale VOYGR-6TM reactor building cross-sectional view (courtesy of NuScale Power)

Date: Saturday, 04 March 2023
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