NuScale Power, a leading US company specializing in small modular reactors, recently announced the abandonment of its Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP) in Utah. The proposed six-reactor, 462-megawatt plant aimed to showcase the potential of SMRs as a clean and reliable energy source. The decision, driven by a lack of customer support and escalating costs, triggered a 20 percent drop in NuScale’s shares and dealt a blow to the US nuclear industry’s aspirations for SMRs.
The CFPP had initially received $1.35 billion in conditional funding from the Department of Energy (DOE) over a decade, supplemented by an additional $600 million since 2014. Despite this substantial financial backing, the project encountered challenges, including the withdrawal of several towns from the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS), NuScale’s power group partner. Concerns about rising costs, estimated at $89 per megawatt hour, up 53 percent from the initial projection of $58 per MWh, contributed to the project’s unraveling.
NuScale’s president and CEO, John Hopkins, expressed disappointment but affirmed the company’s commitment to pursuing other domestic and international opportunities for its SMR technology. Plans for SMR projects in Romania, Kazakhstan, Poland, and Ukraine persist, despite critics cautioning about the stability and risks associated with nuclear reactors in those regions.
While the Department of Energy (DOE) acknowledged the unfortunate cancellation of the CFPP, a spokesperson emphasized the value of the work done so far, indicating its relevance for future nuclear energy endeavors. The DOE remains resolute in its commitment to deploying SMRs and other technologies to combat the climate crisis and enhance access to clean energy, acknowledging that success is not guaranteed for every project.
Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) are touted as a smaller and more cost-effective alternative to traditional nuclear reactors, catering to diverse applications such as replacing coal plants and powering remote communities. Proponents argue for their safety and efficiency, but opponents raise concerns about the production of hazardous nuclear waste and potential security threats.
NuScale stands as the sole recipient of approval from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission for its SMR design, securing public funding for the CFPP through a non-competitive vehicle preceding the energy and climate bills enacted by the Biden administration.