|December 13, 2013|
Feds award NuScale Power up to $226 million to develop modular nuclear reactor
|The U.S. Department of Energy is giving NuScale Power a shot in the arm, providing the Corvallis-based startup as much as $226 million in matching funds to continue developing its small-scale nuclear reactor technology.|
The company hopes to have a reactor on line by 2024, though nuclear critics say the technology is still "imaginary" and development wouldn't be moving forward without massive government subsidies.
NuScale was selected as the winner of the second round of a cost-sharing program to develop small modular reactor technology, the Energy Department said Thursday. It will receive up to $226 million over five years to accelerate development of its technology and pursue design certification from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. NuScale is required to match the federal funds for the licensing and engineering efforts.
The company said in a statement that it still has to finalize an agreement with the Department of Energy that formalizes the public-private partnership and establishes milestones over the next five years. Regardless, the announcement is an important step forward if the company is going to have a chance to reach its goals.
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 DOE money doesn't pay for construction of a project; the idea is to help fund the development and licensing of the technology, MGough said.
NuScale announced a partnership with Western states this summer to build the firm's first commercial nuclear reactor. It hopes to have a working reactor built by 2024, possibly near Idaho National Laboratory. That initiative includes the states of Oregon, Washington, Utah, Arizona, Wyoming and Idaho. NuScale estimates that the reactor will cost about $2 billion.
The company's nuclear module is designed to produce 45 megawatts of electricity -- enough to power 33,000 homes. But a dozen can be strung together to form a more substantial plant. The modular setup makes construction faster and less expensive, and in the event of a disaster it is designed to cool down automatically without electricity or additional water.
The advocacy group Friends of the Earth sent out a news release following the award that said "this subsidy is more evidence that these imaginary reactors are not competitive in a free market and may never be deployed."
"If this reactor was such a panacea for the problems faced by traditional reactors, as claimed in the over-the-top sales pitch leading up to the subsidy award, it should stand on its own and secure funding in the private marketplace," said Katherine Fuchs with Friends of the Earth. "The fact that private investors are not supporting small modular reactors indicates a rather dim financial future. These reactors will likely never get off the ground."
The Texas energy services company Fluor Corp. acquired a majority stake in NuScale in 2011 after the company's previous funding deals fell apart. In a statement Thursday, Fluor said it and NuScale had been approached by numerous entities and were evaluating potential investors, manufacturers and other supply chain partners.
NuScale has 140 employees in Corvallis and 15 in Portland. It is based on technology developed by Oregon State University Professor Jose Reyes. The company has been working on its reactor technology for over a decade.