UPDATED: NuScale announces roadmap for SMR operation at Idaho site by 2024

Somewhere within the 900 square miles of the Idaho National Laboratory there is a site that will be selected as the location for a first-of-a-kind commercial 50 MW small modular reactor.

NuScale, which is developing a 50 MW small modular reactor, provided new details this week on the timeline to having a first-of-kind commercial unit in operation. A company spokesman presented a detailed roadmap for the deployment and a roadmap during a keynote address to the International SMR and Advanced Reactor Summit which took place in Atlanta in April.


NuScale’s roadmap to build its 1st SMR for a customer by 2024. Chart: NuScale


Conceptual drawing of a NuScale SMR power station: Image: NuScale

NuScale’s Chief Commercial Officer Mike McGough said the site selection process has narrowed down to four or five locations on the grounds of the Idaho National Laboratory outside Idaho Falls, ID.

Unlike statements in the past, McGough did not list any other sites in any other states as possible sites for construction. NuScale’s conceptual plan involves two banks of six 50 MW reactors each at the site.

Update May 4, 2016

The Idaho Falls Post Register reported on 5/3/16 (firewall) that Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, or UAMPS, has identified four places to build the small modular reactor (SMR) power plant. This confirms previous reports posted on this blog that the Idaho site is the preferred location for NuScale’s first customer.

NuScale also revealed in its presentation that it is in talks with potential customers and partners in New Mexico and a similar effort is also underway with TVA in Tennessee. TVA will submit to the NRC later this month an application for an Early Site Permit that envisions an SMR based nuclear power station at its Clinch River site. See slides, cited below, for details.

Click here >>>  NuScale’s slides (2 Mb PDF file) <<< presented at the meeting in Idaho Falls on 5/3/16.

The locations for the NuScale power station in Idaho are on the U.S. Department of Energy’s Arco desert site. The utility expects DOE and Idaho National Laboratory to give feedback on those sites in the next week, UAMPS’ government affairs officer Ted Rampton told the Post Register.



Map of major facilities at the INL. Map: Department of Energy

The information was presented in Idaho Falls by Mike McGough, NuScale’s chief commercial officer, and attended by William Magwood, a former NRC commissioner, also a former senior DOE official. Magwood is now the Director/General of of the OECD/NEA based in Paris, France.

The meeting was sponsored by the Partnership for Science & Technology (PST), a local business group.

According to the Post Register there four key “take aways” from the meeting.

  • UAMPS has more than 40 utilities under its umbrella across the West, including Idaho Falls Power. It has a diverse portfolio of power generation. Coal still plays a majority role in supplying its member utilities and that’s an evolving liability.
  • UAMPS wants to move away from coal-fired power due to new federal emissions regulations. Natural gas plants will be subject to similar emissions regulations. While the price of gas is low right now, it could go up in the future.
  • UAMPS and NuScale view the INL site as having fewer hurdles because it’s been home to more than 50 research reactors since its start as the National Reactor Testing Station (NRTS) in the 1950s.
  • Officials also see the eastern Idaho community as receptive to nuclear power.  . UAMPS officials have met with a number of local elected officials who serve on a statewide energy group that reports to the governor. Also, UAMPS is starting public outreach on the project.


William Magwood, the former NRC commissioner, told the Post Register that one of the largest hurdles if the project is to succeed will be shepherding it through the licensing process with Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He said no matter how good a design you have, it’s never an easy process.

“You’ll always have detractors, you’ll always have people who don’t like nuclear,” he said.

Recent Developments

Last February the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that a Site Use Permit has been granted to Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) to support an innovative small modular reactor (SMR) project within the boundary of the Idaho National Laboratory.

EBR 1 chalkboard

Chalkboard at EBR-I

The Arco desert site is located about 45 miles west of Idaho Falls, ID. Nearby is the historical site of EBR-I which is the first nuclear reactor to generate electricity from nuclear fission.

If built the NuScale SMR would be operated by Energy Northwest which also owns and operates the Columbia Generating Station.

In his conference presentation in April, McGough said NuScale is preparing to submit a 12,000 page application for design certification to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission this fall. The NRC is expected to take three or more years to review the new reactor design.

In an interview with public radio, McGough predicted the plant will be commercially operational in the middle of 2024.

“I know that is eight years from now,” McGough said. “That seems like a long time, but in the space of what we’re doing in the technology development and deployment, it’s actually quite short.”

According to McGough his company is spending $12 million a month to create, test and license its design. (large image in PDF format) He estimated the entire development process will cost $1 billion by the time it is through. Funding is coming from a combination of private investment and government grants. DOE has entered into a cost sharing agreement with NuScale for design and regualtory review work. If fully funded it is worth over $400 million.

News media reports about McGough’s talk did not provide any details on NuScale’s plan for its supply chain or whether firms in Idaho and the Pacific Northwest would be part of it. Except for civil construction, the whole of the NuScale Plant is intended to be modular and factory built. Analogies to the planned project would be shipbuilding or aircraft assembly. Large portions of the project will be manufactured off-site, brought together, and assembled at the plant location.  (See 5/20/16 update below)

Competition for the location of that factory is likely to be intense. The State of Washington has taken note and its moving to develop plans to promote locations there for the plant. Separately, NuScale is working with Areva and its Richland, WA, plant to fabricated the fuel for the SMR.

NuScale’s plans to locate in Idaho face opposition from the state’s political establishment. Opposition to new nuclear energy projects from two former Idaho governors recently killed an effort by the Idaho lab to conduct R&D testing of a small quantity of spent nuclear fuel.

This raises a question of what position they would take on new spent nuclear fuel from from 12 planned 50 MW reactors that will eventually make up the UAMPS power station? Because of  the sustained and aggressive opposition by former Governors Cecil Andrus and Phil Batt, which has included contentious court suits over release of federal government documents, it’s not clear how they will respond to the prospect of having new spent fuel in the state, especially if it is generated there.

NuScale Updates U.S. Supply Chain Activity (added 5/20/16)

Statement from: Mike McGough, NuScale Power, Chief Commercial Officer http://www.nuscalepower.com/

“We hired Areva about two years ago to do the fuel design. Then last year we expanded their scope to include fuel manufacture. The fuel work is being done in their Richland Washington facilities.

Also, Premier technologies of Blackfoot, Idaho is a company that we discovered when we held a supplier day event in August 2015, as part of the Idaho Falls InterMountain Energy Summit. Since then we have qualified Premier and they are manufacturing several key components as part of the completion of testing programs.

We have also evaluated Peterson out of Ogden, UTAH, and expect that Premier, Peterson and others will provide important capabilities for component manufacturing.”

China Seeks Global Market Share

According to a report posted by Nuclear Energy Insider, attendees at the same conference also gained insight into China National Nuclear Corporation’s (CNNC) ambitious deployment timeline for its ACP100 SMR design.

CNNC aims to receive state approval this year to build the ACP100 in China and Danrong Song, Chief Designer– SMR at CNNC, said the company plans to pour first concrete for the reactor as early as 2017.

“In 20 years there could be 100 units in China,” Song said.

By comparison, Jack Bailey, VP Business Development, NuScale Power, told attendees that if NuScale supplies 25% of the global SMR market that would mean building between 28 and 38 plant units per year. Nuclear Energy Insider did not report whether NuScale offered an estimate of how long it would take to achieve that level of market penetration.

Westinghouse focuses on UK market

Westinghouse Electric Company announced this week that the U.K. has the advanced manufacturing capabilities necessary to effectively manufacture the Westinghouse Small Modular Reactor’s (SMR) Reactor Pressure Vessel (RPV. The announcement follows a study of U.K. manufacturing capabilities by the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (Nuclear AMRC).

The firm is working on a design of 225 MW small modular reactor. Local sourcing of key reactor components is a key to keeping costs under control.  Plus, these kinds of announcements about local sourcing of reactor components are standard for competitions like the one taking place in the U.K. Similar statements are likely forthcoming from other vendors.

“The ability to locally source the steel, forge, machine and then assemble all of the Westinghouse Small Modular Reactor RPVs is a significant finding and builds on our unique offering to the U.K. Government,” said Jeff Benjamin, Westinghouse senior vice president, New Plants and Major Projects.

“We are confident that our innovative approach and ability to localize our supply chain and manufacturing in the U.K., further demonstrates our commitment to developing SMR technology in the U.K.”

Last month the UK government announced a competition for government funds for the best SMR design. Both Westinghouse, and NuScale, which has opened a UK office, are expected to compete for the funds.

Westinghouse said in its press release that the manufacturing study determined that the firm’s use of U.K. advanced manufacturing techniques offers a potential 50 percent reduction in delivery lead times and offers substantial cost savings to SMR manufacturing.

The firm said that the U.K.’s strong nuclear supply chain, as well as Westinghouse’s commitment to SMR technology, would promote economic growth and job creation in the U.K.’s nuclear industry. In addition to reactor components, Westinghouse’s Springfields facility supports fabrication of SMR fuel.

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