NuScale SMR Project
The mission of the Partnership for Science and Technology (PST) is to independently examine and promote responsible energy technologies and environmental stewardship to benefit Idaho and the region.
PST has completed an initial in depth review of the planned NuScale Small Modular Reactor (SMR) design for the Utah Association of Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) proposed Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP) to be located within the boundaries of the Idaho National Laboratory. The 35 acre site is located about six miles south of the Lost River rest stop west of the intersection of U.S. Highways 20 & 26 and due north of EBR-1. Based upon the information currently available and knowing federal regulations governing the design, siting, and safe operational requirements of a commercial nuclear reactor, the PST supports moving forward expeditiously with this project.
Because of the early stage of the project, there is still a significant amount of additional information on the CFPP that is not currently available but is expected to be provided by UAMPS and NuScale to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the general public as a part of the NuScale design application and the UAMPS construction and operating license application. The PST will continue to review additional information as it becomes available to ensure the CFPP project adequately addresses safety, environmental, and economic issues.
UAMPS is a project-based organization and presently operates 16 separate projects that provide a variety of electricity supply, transmission and other services to the members that participate in them. UAMPS has 45 members in 8 western states; including Idaho Falls Power. Members make their own elections to participate in UAMPS' projects and are not obligated to participate in any particular project. UAMPS initiated the Horse Butte Wind Farm, one of the four wind farms east of Idaho Falls.
UAMPS’ CFPP will investigate the viability of developing a small modular nuclear reactor (SMR). UAMPS is exploring SMRs as a new part of its energy portfolio to mitigate the retirement of aging coal plants and to produce clean emissions-free baseload electricity. UAMPS has noted that they will be forced to retire aging coal plants around 2025 in response to the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. SMR production of flexible, baseload electricity is necessary to make up for the loss of coal power units. SMR electricity will complement, rather than compete with, the variable wind generation of electricity from Horse Butte Wind Farm.
The NRC will solely regulate all aspects of the project including nuclear safety, plant operations, and waste management. Other than being a property landlord the DOE will not have any regulatory authority over the CFPP. The NRC will consult with the state of Idaho, relevant organizations, and the general public as a routine part of the licensing process. NRC will hold public hearings at several points throughout the licensing process and will require a continuing and monitored means of gathering public input.
Operational low-level radioactive waste is the responsibility of the plant owner, UAMPS. Such waste generated within the Northwest Interstate Compact States (Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, and Washington) goes to the U.S. Ecology site in Richland, Washington. Note that the nature, legal status, and disposal options differ from waste currently at the DOE’s INL site.
The CFPP, just like all existing nuclear power plants, will have facilities onsite to store used nuclear fuel. These are licensed and regulated by the NRC. Because of the uncertainty of U.S. federal policy, new plants are being designed and constructed so that all of the used fuel that would be generated during the lifetime of the plant can be safely stored on-site. The CFPP (UAMPS or NuScale) is not a signatory party to the Idaho Governors Settlement Agreement and they will own all new and used fuel for the CFPP. Therefore, the PST believes UAMPS will not be subject to any of the terms or requirements the Idaho Governors Settlement Agreement.
The project will create about 1000 construction jobs at its peak, for a duration of 2-3 years. Once operational, full time plant employment will be about 360. For the 40 or more year lifetime of the plant that would equate to more than $30 million in annual salaries, and there will be considerable multiplication of the salaries in determining the actual overall economic impact of the CFPP. The Nuclear Energy Institute studies of existing nuclear plants estimates that for every $1.00 spent by the plant, there will be $1.04 input into the local economy and $1.18 input into the state economy. UAMPS has not yet done a detailed study of economic impact or an analysis of specialized training and certification needs for construction and operational employees.
The reactor design has a several inherent safety features, using natural forces to eliminate the possibility of fuel damage in all design basis events. In addition, the reactor vessel sits inside a larger containment vessel, which itself resides in an underground stainless steel-lined concrete pool of water. Shield covers and the reactor building itself reside above the reactor components. The reactor building will be a Seismic Category 1 reinforced concrete structure designed to withstand the effects of aircraft impact, environmental conditions, natural phenomena, and postulated credible accidents and threats.
The NuScale design incorporates lessons from the operation of 400 commercial nuclear power plants worldwide. For example, the NuScale design shuts down and self-cools indefinitely with no operator action, no AC or DC power, and no additional water. Compared with existing plants, it replaces many engineered backup systems (such as pipes, pumps and valves) with features that operate automatically by relying on natural phenomena such as gravity, convection, and conduction. Upon loss of power, passive cooling systems on the NuScale units are automatically placed in service to transfer core decay heat to the reactor pool via natural circulation.
The site water consumption is largely driven by the plant operation cooling needs, which will be designed for the specific selected site. Until the cooling system design path is selected, overall site water consumption cannot be confirmed. NuScale public materials indicate, however, that for a 600 MW facility, (12 units at 50 MW each) total daily water usage is expected to be about 15 million gallons of which 5 million is consumed and 10 million is returned to the system. The CFPP options for obtaining water are to purchase existing private water rights or complete an application to the state for a new water right.
The plant may consist of 1 to 12 modules, each 50 MW. So, the UAMPS site will generate between 50 and 600 MW. As they are expected to operate ~90% of the time, they will generate 45-540 MWe-yr per year. For comparison, the four wind farms east of Idaho Falls produce about 110 MWe-yr. The four Idaho Falls Power dams on the Snake River produce 25-MWe-yr. UAMPS has not yet projected the cost of electricity from the plant. NuScale is confident that SMRs can be integrated with renewable energy from wind and solar, providing stability and constancy to the electrical grid even as wind and solar fluctuate depending on weather and time of day. Idaho Falls Power may choose to purchase some of the NuScale power to augment its hydropower portfolio and reduce the amount of electricity it buys from coal and natural gas plants.
Additional details can be found in the answers to frequently asked questions which are available here.