Nuclear Field Activities Completed for Idaho NuScale SMR Project

The 462-MWe Carbon-Free Power Project—the first six-module NuScale Power VOYGR-6 power plant—has completed field investigation activities at its Idaho National Laboratory (INL) site in Idaho Falls, Idaho. The achievement announced on Feb. 3 marks a major milestone for CFPP LLC, the entity Utah state energy services interlocal agency Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) established to develop, build, and operate the first-of-a-kind small modular reactor (SMR) project.

Targeting a startup and commissioning timeframe of 2029, project partners CFPP, Fluor, and NuScale are “moving forward” with the development of a combined license application (COLA), the companies said in a statement on Thursday. CFPP expects to submit the COLA to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in early 2024 in accordance with the regulatory agency’s 10 CFR 52 requirements, they said.

Engineering and construction multinational firm Fluor, which is NuScale’s majority owner, is managing development of the COLA under a contract with CFPP, the partners noted. Fluor in January 2021 also signed a cost-reimbursable development agreement to provide estimating, development, design, and engineering services to develop the site-specific cost estimates fo the VOYGR-6 plant. That agreement engaged Fluor in related design and engineering, procurement, and construction [EPC] activities, “leading up to the ultimate aim of awarding the actual EPC construction contract,” said Pete Knollmeyer, vice president, Nuclear Operations at Fluor, during a Jan. 13 webinar.

Fluor, notably, led the field activities at the INL site that began in August 2021 and were completed in late January. The activities involved detailed geotechnical surface and subsurface investigations to further characterize geologic properties underlying the site, including potential volcanic and seismic hazards, as UAMPS Project Director Dr. Shawn Hughes told the CFPP Project Management Committee on Jan. 18. The work also established a network of groundwater monitoring wells along with a meteorological monitoring station, he said. “This is an extraordinary accomplishment to complete this critical-path scope safely, in challenging weather conditions, and without schedule impacts,” Hughes said.

Knollmeyer noted the geotechnical characterization completed more than 50 boreholes and 10 water test wells. “Site-specific design was also initiated in 2021,” he said. Analysis of data collected from the site, as well as a two-year monitoring campaign, will be presented in the COLA, the companies said. The COLA will also provide additional project-specific facility design information, which will support the NRC’s safety and environmental reviews as well as public consultations.

According to Knollmeyer, plans now envision that site preparation and excavation will begin in 2025. Pouring of the first safety-related concrete for the reactor building will come next, in 2026. NuScale Power, developer of the VOYGR technology, is in tandem eyeing a 2027 module delivery timetable for its commercial VOYGR offering. On Aug. 28, 2020, NuScale’s 50-MWe (160 MWth) module became the first SMR to receive a final safety evaluation report (FSER) from the NRC as part of a Phase 6 review—the last and final phase—of NuScale’s Design Certification Application (DCA). However, the NRC now needs to complete a review of the company’s power uprate (from 60-MWe to 77-MWe) as part of a Standard Design Approval (SDA) application, which NuScale has said it could submit this year. 

Knollmeyer suggested that review may be “quite quick.”  The first review took four years, he noted, and “not a lot has changed. Many of the analyses and justification they will see in the 77 MW plant will be similar to the 50 MW plant,” he said. “It will be done in parallel with [the NRC] approving the COLA, and that we expect to be a 30-month review and approval. And we expect the SDA to be less than that 30 months, so we expect the SDA to happen before the COLA,” he said.

UAMPS, meanwhile, has so far signed up 27 of its 50-member pool—mainly in Utah, Idaho, Nevada, and New Mexico—as participants in CFPP. It is now reportedly in discussions with new potential CFPP participants in  Montana, Wyoming, Arizona, and Washington. “Subscription recruitment continues to go well with advanced discussions ongoing with several utilities outside of UAMPS. Transmission solutions to deliver power to interested utilities are being developed, with transmission service requests filed and exchange opportunities being explored,” the agency said in aJan. 27 update.

Negotiations to formally engage a plant operator are also ongoing, it said. The aim is to reach the signing of a term sheet that outlines agreements with the plant operator, which will “become a key member of the project team,” it said. Other work underway includes “developing the Class 3 cost estimate, developing topic reports for submission to the NRC, continuing work on the Standard Plant Design, and developing a supply chain pricing analysis,” it said. “NuScale and Fluor are working on power module manufacturing trials and steam generator fabrication. An area labor market analysis report is in review,” it noted.

Sonal Patel is a POWER senior associate editor (@sonalcpatel@POWERmagazine).

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