NuScale Power

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NuScale Power
Private
Industry Nuclear power
Founded Corvallis, Oregon, USA
Founder Paul G. Lorenzini and Jose Reyes
Headquarters Portland, OR 97224
Key people
John Hopkins (CEO)
Products Small Modular Reactors (SMR)
Website www.nuscalepower.com

NuScale Power is a private limited liability company headquartered in Portland, Oregon that designs and markets small modular reactors (SMRs). As of 2014, the Department of Energy projected its technology would be commercially available around the year 2025.

NuScale was founded based on research funded by the Department of Energy from 2000 to 2003. After funding was cut, scientists with the program obtained related patents in 2007 and started NuScale to commercialize the technology. In 2011, the company's largest investor had its assets frozen due to an investigation by the Securities Exchange Commission. The company experienced financial hardship, until new funding was obtained from Fluor Corporation and later from the Department of Energy. NuScale is currently planning the first NuScale power plant in Idaho.

NuScale's SMR designs are for 9' by 65' reactor vessels that use conventional light water cooling methods. Each module is intended to be kept in an underground pool and is expected to produce about 50 megawatts of electricity. It uses passive water circulation that can operate without powered pumps or circulatory equipment.

Corporate history[edit]

Early history[edit]

NuScale was founded based on research funded by the US Department of Energy and conducted by Oregon State University, the Idaho National Laboratory, and other colleges[1][2][3] beginning in 2000. At the time, Oregon State's nuclear department had been developing passive water circulation techniques for cooling in nuclear plants.[4] The research grant ended in 2003, but a group of scientists at Oregon State University continued the work. They built a test lab at one-third the actual scale of the technology and inherited related patents from the university in 2007,[4][5] in exchange for a small equity in the company.[6] NuScale was founded that same year. Its first funding round was in January 2008 for an undisclosed sum.[3] It began seeking certification with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in February 2008.[4]

By 2011, NuScale had raised $35 million in financing and had 100 employees in three cities: Portland, Oregon; Richland, Washington; and Corvallis, Oregon.[7] NuScale was the first to submit plans for small reactors to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission[3] and was widely expected to be the first to get government approval.[8][9] It was also being evaluated by a consortium of utility companies called Energy Northwest.[10]

Funding difficulties and rebound[edit]

In January 2011, NuScale's largest investor, Kenwood Group, was investigated by the Securities Exchange Commission and later plead guilty to operating a Ponzi scheme. The SEC investigation was not related to any of Kenwood's dealings with NuScale, but Kenwood's assets were frozen just as NuScale was expecting additional funding. The company started making staffing and pay cuts as executives looked for new funding sources.[11][12] Most of the company's employees were laid off within a few months.[13]

That September NuScale obtained a loan to re-hire 60 employees.[8] In October, Fluor acquired a majority interest in the company for $3.5 million and promised almost $30 million in working capital.[6] According to The Energy Daily, Fluor's investment saved the company, which had been "financially marooned" by its prior investor.[14] A separate agreement also gave Fluor the rights to construct NuScale-based power plants.[15]

In August 2012, Rolls-Royce Holdings said it would support NuScale's commercialization efforts and help it obtain funding from the Department of Energy's Funding Opportunity Announcement, which is intended to provide funding to help bring SMRs to market.[4] It was not awarded any funding in the first round.[16] In the Department of Energy's (DOE) second round of funding in December 2013, NuScale won up to $226 million in "cost-sharing" funding to share the expense of pursuing government approval, through the SMR Licensing Technical Support program.[17] This was followed by an agreement in May 2014 for up to $217 million in funding over a five-year period, whereby the Department of Energy would match private funding.[18]

In December 2012, co-founder and CEO Paul G. Lorenzini was succeeded by current CEO John Hopkins.[19]

Early deployments[edit]

In March 2012, NuScale signed an agreement with the Department of Energy, allowing NuScale and two partners to build and operate a NuScale-based nuclear power plant at the Savannah River Site.[20] The following month Energy Northwest said it didn't have any immediate plans to construct a nuclear power plant, but had evaluated all the available SMR technologies and identified NuScale as the best available option at the time.[21][22]

In July 2013, NuScale announced an effort to study and demonstrate NuScale reactors in the western united states, called Program WIN (Western Initiative for Nuclear),[18] with plans to build the first NuScale-based power plant in the western United States by 2024.[4] In November 2014, NuScale announced it was building what is expected to be the first SMR in the US in Idaho. The plant is for the Carbon Free Power Project with Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems. It's expected to be completed in 2023.[23]

Reactors[edit]

A diagram of a NuScale small modular reactor (SMR).

NuScale designs and markets small modular nuclear reactors[3] that the Department of Energy expects to be commercially available around 2025.[17]

Its designs use the light water approach to cooling and power generation that is common in conventional nuclear plants. Water is heated by the nuclear core at the base of the reactor vessel. Heated water flows upwards inside the riser, then down over steam generators. As heat is transferred to steam generators, the water becomes cooler and denser, sinking back to the bottom of the device, where the cycle is repeated. Heat transferred to the steam generators is used to create steam that turns a turbine, which cranks an electricity generator.[4][17][24]

Each NuScale reactor vessel is expected to be 9 feet by 65 feet and weigh 650 tons.[17] The modules would be pre-fabricated, delivered by rail-car, barge or special trucks[25] and assembled on-site.[8][9][26][27] The units are designed to produce 50 megawatts.[28][a] of electricity each and require refueling with standard 4.95 percent enriched Uranium 235 fuel every two years.[17]

NuScale's design does not rely on powered water pumps or circulatory equipment.[1][4] The company claims it can shut down and continue cooling itself indefinitely in the event of a catastrophe.[4][b] The devices are intended to be kept in a below-ground pool, to absorb the shock of earthquakes, with a concrete lid over the pool.[30] In the event that AC power is lost for normal cooling systems, the pool water begins to absorb heat and boil.[4]

Comparisons[edit]

NuScale is expected to be the first SMR to market, because its cooling is similar to the systems used in conventional power plants. However, alternative cooling systems using molten metals are expected to operate at higher, more efficient temperatures once approved.[31] The company estimates a twelve-unit NuScale plant would cost $5,000 per kilowatt-hour. In comparison, the Energy Information Administration in 2011 estimated costs to be $4,700 per kilowatt for conventional nuclear power, $4,600 for a carbon sequestration coal plant and $931 at a gas-fired plant.[4] David Mohre, executive director of NRECA's Energy and Power Division, said SMR's like NuScale's are ideal for rural towns that need small power plants and do not have access to natural gas.[14] NuScale power plants are also expected to take less time, materials and space to construct as other power sources and can be expanded incrementally to adjust to power needs.[3][26][32][33]

Operations[edit]

NuScale has offices in Portland, Oregon; Corvallis, Oregon; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Rockville, Maryland.[34] Its headquarters are in Portland and its production facility is located in Corvallis.[35] It maintains a test facility at Oregon State University,[1] as well as two additional test facilities in Italy.[4]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Previously 45 megawatts
  2. ^ Most sources say indefinitely, but NBC News reported 30 days.[29]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Durlin, Marty (March 30, 2009). "Mix-and-match nuclear reactors". High Country News. Retrieved April 11, 2015. 
  2. ^ Hyatt, Abraham (July 2008). "Start Me Up:NuScale Power". Oregon Business. Retrieved April 11, 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "NIMBY: Nukes in my backyard". Investors Business Daily. November 11, 2008. Retrieved April 11, 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Wagman, David (October 1, 2013). "NuScale Puts Single-Minded Focus on Small Modular Reactor". Power Magazine. Retrieved January 15, 2015. 
  5. ^ "Small-Scale Nuclear Co. Hunts For Funds". Power Finance & Risk. April 6, 2009. Retrieved April 11, 2015. 
  6. ^ a b Smith, Rebecca (October 13, 2011). "Fluor Buys Stake in Reactor Maker". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved January 15, 2015. 
  7. ^ Rogoway, Mike (January 20, 2011). "Corvallis-based NuScale suspends operations after SEC acts against its chief investor". The Oregonian. Retrieved January 15, 2015. 
  8. ^ a b c Hall, Bennett (August 21, 2011). "Power Struggle". Corvallis Gazette-Times. Retrieved January 15, 2015. 
  9. ^ Barbe, Wayne (June 9, 2009). "Energy Northwest considers adding capacity with modular nukes". Generation Markets Week. 
  10. ^ "NuScale Cuts Back As Feds Sue Funder". The Energy Daily. February 7, 2011. Retrieved April 11, 2015. 
  11. ^ Rogoway, Mike (January 31, 2011). "NuScale furloughs 30, cuts pay and hours for the others, while it seeks new investment". The Oregonian. Retrieved April 11, 2015. 
  12. ^ Patel, Sonal (July 1, 2011). "Holtec, Westinghouse Roll Out Small Modular Reactor Designs". Power Magazine. Retrieved January 18, 2015. 
  13. ^ a b Lobsenz, George (October 14, 2011). "Fluor Moves Into Small Reactors With NuScale Buy". The Energy Daily. 
  14. ^ "Fluor Gets Nuclear Firm Stranded By Illarramendi's Ponzi Scheme". Reuters. October 13, 2011. Retrieved April 11, 2015. 
  15. ^ Rogoway, Mike (March 27, 2013). "NuScale Power begins fresh effort to secure federal funds for its nuclear technology". The Oregonian. Retrieved January 29, 2015. 
  16. ^ a b c d e "NuScale joins B&W on the SMR bench". Modern Power Systems. April 2014. Retrieved January 15, 2015. 
  17. ^ a b Patel, Sonal (May 29, 2014). "NuScale, DOE Complete Agreement for $217M SMR Development Funds". Power Magazine. Retrieved January 15, 2015. 
  18. ^ Rogoway, Mike (December 13, 2012). "NuScale Power replaces CEO". The Oregonian. Retrieved January 29, 2015. 
  19. ^ Patel, Sonal (July 1, 2012). "Small Modular Reactors Vie for DOE Funding". Retrieved January 17, 2015. 
  20. ^ Beattie, Jeff (June 18, 2012). "Washington Governor Nudging DOE For Small Nuke At Hanford". The Energy Daily. Retrieved April 11, 2015. 
  21. ^ Beattie, Jeff (July 26, 2012). "FirstEnergy Eyeing Possible B&W Small Reactor Project". The Energy Daily. Retrieved April 11, 2015. 
  22. ^ Deign, Jason (November 20, 2014). "NuScale widens lead in quest for SMR commercialisation". Nuclear Energy Insider. Retrieved January 29, 2015. 
  23. ^ Freedman, David (June 2010). "Micro Nukes" 31 (5). Discover. 
  24. ^ Barnard, Jeff (December 13, 2013). "Department Of Energy Awards Grant To NuScale To Design Small Modular Nuclear Power Plants". Associated Press. Retrieved March 2, 2015. 
  25. ^ a b "The Race to Commercialize Mini-Nuclear Reactors". Power Magazine. January 1, 2009. Retrieved January 14, 2015. 
  26. ^ Blumenthal, Les (June 14, 2009). "Northwest utilities turn to nuclear, 25 years after industry collapsed". Tribune News Service. Retrieved April 11, 2015. 
  27. ^ Cunningham, Nick (March 24, 2015). "A Look At The Future Of Nuclear Power". OilPrice. Retrieved April 9, 2015. 
  28. ^ "Will next-gen nuclear power be safe enough?". NBC News. October 10, 2011. Retrieved January 15, 2015. 
  29. ^ Maize, Kennedy (July 1, 2011). "Nuclear Power in the Shadow of Fukushima". Power Magazine. 
  30. ^ Freedman, David (June 2010). "The Big Potential of Micro Nukes". Discover. Retrieved January 18, 2015. 
  31. ^ Barbe, Wayne (July 13, 2010). "NuScale sees large upside in small nuclear units". SNL Generation Markets Week. 
  32. ^ Fairfield, Hannah (December 1, 2009). "New Scale for Nuclear Power". The New York Times. Retrieved April 11, 2015. 
  33. ^ locations, NuScale, retrieved January 15, 2015 
  34. ^ Giegerich, Andy (July 28, 2014). "NuScale set to add scores of Oregon jobs". Portland Business Journal. Retrieved January 15, 2015. 

External links[edit]