DOE Designates Part of UAMPS SMR Plant for Research, Self-Power

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) wants to use two of 12 modules at the NuScale small modular reactor (SMR) plant that Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems intends to build at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL). 

One module will be used strictly for research, development, and demonstration activities under the newly launched Joint Use Modular Plant (JUMP) program, shows a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the DOE, Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS), and Battelle Energy Alliance (BEA) made public on Dec. 21. 

“The research is expected to focus principally on integrated energy systems that support the production of both electricity and non-electric energy products,” the DOE said in a statement. 

The other module may be used in a power purchase agreement (PPA) to provide power to INL. DOE and UAMPS intend to work together to engage local utility Idaho Power regarding the supply of power produced by the project to support INL’s energy needs. The DOE estimates INL will need up to 70 MW of power in the 2025–2030 timeframe.

The proposed SMR plant is being developed as part of UAMPS’ Carbon Free Power Project, which was launched in 2015 as part of its long-term strategy to replace aging coal-fired plants with a non-fossil fuel, and medium-sized, flexible power generating source.

Plans call for building the project on the DOE’s 890-square-mile site west of Idaho Falls. Oregon-based NuScale Power would provide the 12 modules, each of 60 MW. NuScale has the backing of Fluor Corp.

Before construction on the project can begin, however, it must clear several hurdles. UAMPS members are expected to vote soon on whether to finance or back the Carbon Free Power Project. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is also reviewing NuScale’s design certification application, and NuScale expects an approval by September 2020. 

If the project is approved and construction proceeds as envisioned, UAMPS says the SMR plant could be fully built by 2027. Washington state public power agency Energy Northwest has the option to operate the project for UAMPS if it is approved. 

UAMPS is meanwhile working with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), a U.S. corporate agency, and the DOE to develop standard content portions of a combined construction and operation license application (COLA). TVA in 2016 submitted an early site permit (ESP) application for a potential SMR plant at its Clinch River site, 25 miles northwest of Knoxville in eastern Tennessee. 

In a statement on Dec. 21, NuScale Chairman and CEO John Hopkins lauded the MOU between the DOE, UAMPS, and BEA. “Through the JUMP Program, NuScale is excited to provide a cost-effective, one-of-a-kind opportunity for the national laboratory to conduct critical research, development and demonstration activities at the country’s first commercial SMR. NuScale’s involvement in the JUMP Program is yet another way we are revolutionizing the face of nuclear energy and charging ahead with the clean, safe and resilient energy of the future,” he said. 

—Sonal Patel is a POWER associate editor (@sonalcpatel, @POWERmagazine)