Australian news, and some related international items

NuScam’s small nuclear reactors have both regulatory and financial woes

How did the US nuclear industry fare in 2022? Canary Media 28 December 2022 Eric Wesoff

“……………………………………………………………………….. NuScale’s NRC blues, NuScale Power has led the charge on small nuclear reactors for more than a decade but is still struggling with the NRC, as well as facing rising costs on a crucial first-of-a-kind 462-megawatt project in Idaho. 

The proposed project from NuScale and Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, a group of 50 municipal utilities spanning seven Western states, was initially slated to begin operation of the first of six small modular reactors in 2029. But according to December reporting in E&E News, ​“NuScale’s first reactor now faces sharply higher construction cost estimates, due to inflation and higher interest rates. If projected costs rise above $58 per megawatt-hour, it would trigger an up-or-down vote as early as next month from the project’s anchor customers.” E&E also reported that the costs of construction materials such as steel plate and carbon steel piping have skyrocketed since the project was approved in 2020.

In addition to cost issues, NuScale has run into a regulatory snag. The company replaced its NRC-approved 50-megawatt design and now needs to gain regulatory approval for the 77-megawatt module it plans to use in the UAMPS project. Utility Dive reported in November that the NRC has concerns about the new design, writing in a letter to NuScale that the company’s proposed module raised ​“several challenging and/​or significant issues” with its draft application. 

Small module reactor architecture is an unproven solution to the nuclear industry’s cost and schedule overruns. Scaling down new reactors in power output and size theoretically enables small modular and micro solutions that can be constructed less expensively off-site using fewer custom components with lower total project costs.

But even NuScale’s design, a small modular reactor that bears some resemblance to existing light-water reactors, poses challenges to the testing and approval processes of the NRC. NuScale says it has spent over $500 million and expended more than 2 million labor hours to compile the information needed for its design-certification application. 

And it’s not just the nuclear regulators, engineers and politicians who need to weigh in on this project. These days, it’s the nuclear accountants who have the final say. And so far, small reactors have not proven to be a financial or regulatory slam dunk. ……………


December 30, 2022 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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