The US Department of Energy has agreed to contribute $1.4bn towards the cost of building the first small modular reactor (SMR) site in the US.
The award, which will be disbursed over 10 years, will go to Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS). The state-owned utility is planning to build a 720MW SMR site using technology developed by NuScale, a nuclear engineer controlled by Texas engineer Fluor.
The Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP) – the first SMR site in the US, and possibly the world – will be built at the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory site, and will contain 12 NuScale SMRs.
Douglas Hunter, UAMPS chief executive, commented in a press statement: "We appreciate this tremendous vote of confidence in CFPP by the Department of Energy. It is entirely appropriate for DOE to help de-risk this first-of-a kind, next-generation nuclear project … that will provide affordable, carbon-free electricity all over the country and the world. This project is much bigger than UAMPS itself."
When built, electricity from the plant will be distributed to 33 utilities in five states.
The DOE’s decision follows the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issuance last month of a final safety evaluation report for NuScale’s SMR design after more than three years of investigation (see further reading).
Meanwhile, the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) has signed a letter of intent to support NuScale in the development of nuclear generating capacity in South Africa.
The DFC will help South Africa to develop 2.5GW of nuclear energy using NuScale technology. If successful, this would be the first US nuclear energy project in Africa, and would, according to the corporation, "help to support energy resilience and security in one of Africa’s leading economies and a key partner on the continent for the US government".
World Nuclear News reports that In July, the US lifted its legacy prohibition on funding nuclear energy projects overseas with the DFC. In the past, the corporation had been prohibited from investing in the production of, or trade in, radioactive materials, including nuclear reactors.
Image: NuScale’s rendering of a possible SMR reactor site