Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Fluor, NuScale expanding office presence in Idaho Falls

Now that they have a deal with the U.S. Department of Energy, Fluor Corp. and NuScale Power are getting ready to expand their offices in Idaho Falls, in the Taylor Crossing on the River development.

It is not a huge expansion, but it represents the first step in a nine-year march toward building small modular reactors on the Idaho desert.



Oregon-based NuScale, in which Fluor has been the the majority investor since 2011, announced last week that it had signed a contract agreement with the DOE for $217 million in matching funds to support development, licensing and commercialization of the company’s nuclear small modular reactor technology.

After review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, NuScale expects to submit an application for design certification in the second half of 2016. This will allow the company to meet a commercial operation date of 2023 for its first planned project, in Idaho, with partners Energy NorthWest and Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (of which Idaho Falls Power is a member.)

NuScale's Chief Commercial Officer Mike McGough said the DOE's award was a "very important validation of our efforts," and would make it easier to raise the matching funds from investors. The office in Idaho Falls is more Fluor's than NuScale's -- "They're letting us co-habitate with them," he said -- but it will be where meetings are held regarding such matters as supply chain.

NuScale has had a prototype small modular reactor in operation since 2003.
An artist's rendering of how NuScale's small modular reactor assembly would work. For a full story, visit this link: http://greenbuildingelements.com/2013/07/01/nuscale-powers-small-modular-reactor-chosen-as-preferred-technology-by-western-initiative-for-nuclear/
"The DOE money doesn't pay for construction of a project; the idea is to help fund the development and licensing of the technology," McGough said. The cost of the entire project could top $2 billion.

NuScale has to research an "Idaho-wide region of interest," identifying possible sites on the desert, gathering geological and meteorological information. A lot of that has been gathered at the Idaho National Lab, which dates back to 1949.

While the desert west of Idaho Falls was once home to 52 reactors, only three remain in operation now, most prominently the Advanced Test Reactor, which was built in the mid-1960s. At a conference in Idaho Falls last year, NuScale detailed a goal of building 12 small modular reactors, linked together and generating 545 megawatts by 2025.

Compared to a typical pressurized water reactor generating 1,000 megawatts, the advantage to a small modular reactor of 45 megawatts is that it is a "plug and play" proposition, McGough said. Fluor wants to market nuclear power plants to the world, which is why it bought NuScale.

A design certification application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is typically a document of around 10,000 pages, after which the company would need to get NRC permission to build.

"There's lots of things you have to do, and you have to do them right," McGough said.

Unlike traditional reactors, which rely on electric pumps to keep water on the fuel rods to keep them from melting, NuScale's self-contained, self-circulating reactors shut themselves down during a station blackout.

As for the selection of Idaho Falls, it's a case of going where you are wanted. "If the community won't support it, you just shouldn't try," he said.

As part of the Intermountain Energy Summit scheduled for mid-August in Idaho Falls, NuScale has set up a Supplier's Day on Aug. 21, where possible vendors can engage in "speed dating" -- 15-minute meetings where they can discuss possibilities. "We were blown away by the response," McGough said. "There is a lot of interest in this project."

In its "State of Energy in the West" report of June 2013, one of the Western Governors Association's stated goals was to find ways to accelerate introduction of small modular reactors into Western states.

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