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  1. This is great news! I wonder how the siting will be impacted by cooling choice. Will they consider air cooled? Either way, I hope my future duties take me to Idaho during the process.

  2. It’s worth mentioning that UAMPS plans to purchase twelve NuScale SMRs for this project, which should give NuScale a big leg-up in economies of scale and learning curves. This is a really big deal.

    1. Maybe the Clinch River site could be the 2nd installation, with the Early Site Permit work going on there and with TVA’s announcement yesterday that they are considering selling off the Bellefonte site.

    2. @Keith Pickering

      At the Platts Nuclear Energy Conference, Mike McGough, the Chief Commercial Officer at NuScale was asked about the number of modules needed to reach “Nth of a kind” manufacturing scale and costs.

      He said they would be there after building two of their 12-packs. At that point, they will be working hard on other configurations so that entities with the need for power in increments substantially less than 570 MWe would be added to their potential customer base. That is one of the reasons that NuScale chose to make each module fully capable of generating power. The only shared systems in their 12-pack design are the pool and the refueling systems.

  3. I am a Utah resident. My house gets electricity from Rocky Mountain Power. My billing statement gives me the option to pay a little extra as a (non-deductible) donation to build windmills and solar power. I have never even THOUGHT to chip in for that boondoggle. If I had the option of paying over a little extra for NUCLEAR, though, that would be a different story.

  4. I would expect construction time to be a lot less with these modular reactors. Anybody have an idea as to how long to get a unit online after the first shovelful of dirt?

    1. @Eino

      Brochures by NuScale in 2010 advertised 40 months, start to finish, for the 12 reactor plant. I have no idea if that is still the case.

      1. Mr. Haas Thank you – That is a lot shorter time to begin to recoup your money than 12 years. They used to build nuke plant in that time so it should be realistic.

  5. Any details on operation of one of these 12-packs? Is there a single control room, or are there 12, or something in between?

    How did that work on the aircraft carriers? Were the eight reactors on the USS Enterprise all run “together” or what? Did all eight contribute to propulsion or were some dedicated to making ship electric power, or steam for the catapaults?

    I’m just trying to understand the operational complexity of multiple reactor facilities. I have worked at commercial sites with shared control room, but that was only two reactors.

  6. As a burned-out INL retiree who’s taken up learning about the hows & whys of nuclear power as a pastime, I’m not very giddy about DOE’s infatuation with small modular reactors, especially NuScale’s version of how it’s done.

    The Idaho Fall’s POST REGISTER’s breathless announcement of that agreement referred outsiders like me to DOE’s official press release


    That in turn provides a link to what was actually agreed to http://www.id.energy.gov/insideNEID/PDF/DOE_UAMPS%20Use%20Permit%20DE-N700065.pdf

    If you go there it’ll refer you a description of each reactor http://www.nuscalepower.com/

    Note that nowhere is a there a actual commitment to build a real 12 unit (600 MWe) nuclear power plant anywhere. It’s kinda like the bloviating that went on at the IPCC’s COP 21 Paris conference a few months ago: Everyone gets together, says some wonderful things, comes away feeling great, & doesn’t actually have to commit to doing anything.

    If everyone in the world were to have a fair/equal share of enough clean reliable energy to live as well as we here in the USA do now, someone would have to build ’em about 30,000 GWe worth of nuclear reactors. The 6 million NuScale’s needed to do that would burn 100% of the world’s “affordable uranium” in under 4 years which is why DOE should concentrate on developing one or more genuinely sustainable nuclear fuel cycles, not upon helping its “industrial partners” while burning-out more of its PhDs. .

    This much BS this close to home was too much to ignore so I wrote up a ” reader letter” sent it off to the PR last night. (see below)

    “DOE just announced that INL’s much-ballyhooed 50 MW “small modular reactor” will generate 1000 “temporary” full-time jobs & 300 thereafter.

    Assuming that a “full-time job” costs taxpayers $100k/a & that “temporary” means 2 years, labor costs add up to $1.1 billion during a 30 year life time. Assuming 10% down time for refueling, maintenance etc, labor costs during that lifetime would be 9.3 cents/kWhr. Adding in fuel costs the total comes to 10.1 cents/kWhr. Of course, its actual costs are apt to be considerably greater because “overhead” makes most “site” jobs cost more than $100k/a.

    In 2014 the total cost (operation, maintenance, and fuel) of generating electricity with the USA’s existing reactors was only 2.76 cents/kWhr.

    Idaho’s electricity consumption averages ~2700 MW which means that even though it might “contribute” to Idaho’s power needs, that contribution would be insignificant.

    If its (NuScale’s) fuel cycle were genuine sustainable, it would be worth “studying” anyway However, it’s just another light water reactor (LWR) requiring the same kind and amount of fuel and generating the same kind and amount of waste/kWhr as do today’s full-sized LWRs. It’s sole virtue is “modularity” & the only thing it’ll prove (again) is that big reactors make more sense.

    Consequently, it’s another long-winded, over-priced DOE nuclear boondoggle that will chew up time, tax dollars, & make it even more difficult to convince “outsiders” that they really could afford a “nuclear renaissance”. Worse, it’ll probably turn another generation of eager young INL PhD’s into cynical “good team players”. “

    1. @Darryl Siemer

      I think you are wrong about the value of NuScale’s technology and its future applications.

      I’m pretty sure that the designers have no intention of trying to take over the world by building anything close to 6 million units. They have much more modest industrial plans and see their product as serving a finite universe of near term needs. For example, they want to be ready with a commercial product when numerous 300-600 MWe coal fired power plants in the US begin to retire. If there is no proven nuclear option available at the right time, the owners of those plants will install efficient natural gas plants that will then operate for at least 20-30 years in order to pay back the required investments in plant equipment and pipeline delivery systems.

      I cannot argue with your assessment of why DOE is participating in the project but you should take solace from the fact that its support is decimal dust when compared to the total budget of $32 billion/year. It will not be responsible for burning up any INL PhD’s; I can’t think of much involvement at the lab in the project other than potentially providing some real estate.

    2. DOE should concentrate on developing one or more genuinely sustainable nuclear fuel cycles, not upon helping its “industrial partners” while burning-out more of its PhDs.

      For goodness sake! The DOE has been working on “developing one or more genuinely sustainable nuclear fuel cycles” for decades now, and what has come of it? Nothing. The DOE is notorious for never finishing anything.

      These PhDs get “burned out” only if they are foolish enough to try to tackle all of the world’s problems for all time all at once. They get “cynical” when they keep working on impossible projects that get canceled before they ever get a chance to finish, because the folks that run the DOE and the politicians that control their funding have the attention span of a seven-year-old.

      Here we have a company that wants to build something, wants to develop a commercial product, and depends on the success of this product to continue to operate, and you want to ditch them to waste yet more money on lab rats and college professors chasing pie-in-the-sky fantasies of 30 TW of nuclear reactors?!

      Please excuse me while I disagree.

    3. @Darryl I appreciate your thoughts and I’d like to counter with the perspective of a State Utility Regulator.

      New generation is expensive. Wind in my state comes in at 7.5 cents/kWhr when not counting the production tax credit. (this is without storage or backup) A new combined cycle gas plant was proposed, and then withdrawn, the price, 8.2 cents/kWhr. The cost you provide for SMRs of 10.1 cents/kWhr does seem high, but not so much for a first of a kind. Whatever we replace coal with, and we will replace coal, it will be more costly.

      DTE Electric here in Michigan holds a COLA for a 1500 MWe General Electric ESBWR. The ESBWR is estimated to cost $9-10 billion in capital with a levelized cost around 9 cents/kWhr. The issue is constructing this plant would grow the assets of the company by 80%. That is a huge financial risk to be taking with the company.

      I see the benefit of an SMR in it’s lower capital cost. It does not require so much investment to get off the ground and running. In the case of NuScale you get even get 2-4 reactors operational, and then use the cash flow to purchase additional reactors and turbines. You can go all the way to 12 reactors if you want to, or stop at a place that makes sense for your situation.

      I wish things had gone better at Vogtle. Investors and utility executives alike needed to see on time and on budget in order to take the future of nuclear in general, and the AP1000 specifically, more seriously. Maybe if nothing else happens from this point on the interest in new large nuclear will stabilize, but I have my doubts.

      Again, just another perspective on why I think the SMR route has potential. I do hope the potential will be realized.

      1. @Kevin Krause

        I wish things had gone better at Vogtle. Investors and utility executives alike needed to see on time and on budget in order to take the future of nuclear in general, and the AP1000 specifically, more seriously.

        While I understand your disappointment and believe that Westinghouse salesmen didn’t do a good job of explaining the situation, please take solace in the fact that the AP1000s at Vogtle and Summer are FOAK units. We had not built any new large nuclear plants in the US in 35 years; experience in China doesn’t do much to prepare a US workforce or regulator.

        The second units at each site are showing the value of learning and infrastructure development.

  7. As I’ve pointed out, nuclear power can solve the world’s problems only if it’s produced on a much larger scale & very differently than it either is now or would be with DOE/INL’s pet SMR.

    The only reason that wind and solar are profitable is that government at various levels topped off by the feds has mandated that they make a profit. This is practical up to a point – maybe 20% of the total – only because the USA already has a huge energy infrastructure based upon fossil fuels permitting backup of unreliable sources.

    NuScale’s design is what it is because it fits into our government’s current paradigm for nuclear power – a temporary thing to fill in gaps while we’re “transitioning” to a world powered with millions of imaginary wind turbines, solar panels, and super batteries linked together with an even more super “grid”. Consequently, the folks working at our national laboratories have been beavering away at trying to make today’s nuclear technologies – mostly HTGRs & LWRs – suitable for temporary gap-filling.

    Our federal government (meaning DOE) has a total monopoly on the sorts of messy, risky, “hot” research that must be done to develop a genuinely new/different nuclear fuel cycle but hasn’t chosen to do it. Outsiders like NuScale can’t do that kind of work & its investors would not want them to even try – they are in it for the money & that dictates “conservative” designs.

    The only way that nuclear power can realize its potential is for the federal government to take on the responsibility of making it happen – like it did with the whole economy after the Japs hit Pearl Harbor. In today’s “free world’ (USA especially) no individual company is going to risk everything it has to do anything big enough to address any of the big problems that human nature has created for both us & world we live in (climate change).

    I know that suggesting that “the government” should to do anything these days is about the “touchiest” things that I could do. I’m not saying that my/your government would act rationally or in the best interests of the people, only that it both should and could. I’m old enough to remember what happened (Manhattan project, Rickover’s nuclear propulsion program, NASA’s moon shots, etc) before our leaders decided to either ignore many of our government’s responsibilities or “privatize” them. Today’s approach to government – especially how we go about financing elections & incentivizing the people who “work for us” in its national labs – is the main problem.

    This means that the government would put someone like Admiral Rickover in charge of sustainable nuclear power development & then totally support him (or her)when he’s decided how best to go about doing it. Free enterprise is great but when it’s untrammeled by a properly functioning government tends to serve selfish short term interests, not the best interests of humanity or the earth. It’s also given us a political system that’s been bought by the people who’ve benefited most from it – the ones who own & profit by continuing businesses-as-usual.

    1. Consequently, the folks working at our national laboratories have been beavering away at trying to make today’s nuclear technologies — mostly HTGRs & LWRs — suitable for temporary gap-filling.

      Is that what you think they’re doing? I’m glad somebody finally explained it to me, because I work with these folks and I haven’t been able to figure out what they’ve been doing except scrambling to secure their funding for the next fiscal year.

      Our federal government (meaning DOE) has a total monopoly .. Outsiders like NuScale can’t do that kind of work & its investors would not want them to even try …

      Well, I don’t know about that. TerraPower is doing quite a bit of that “messy, risky” work and is putting up quite a bit its own money to do it. Then again, its main investor is a guy with deep pockets, Bill Gates.

      Note that TerraPower plans to build its prototypes outside of the US because of our federal government’s oppressive regulatory structure. In this game, the federal government is mostly your enemy, not your friend.

      This means that the government would put someone like Admiral Rickover in charge of sustainable nuclear power development

      Admiral Rickover has been dead for decades and there is nobody to replace him. The LWR technology that you (strangely) complain about is largely the result of his overbearing control of the development of nuclear technology in the middle of the twentieth century. Please make up your mind.

  8. Thanks Brian – do you work at INL? If so, give me a call, I’m in the phone book

    Anyway, re Rickover – I have made up my mind about “his” LWRs. They were and still are a great choice for the purpose that they are meant to serve – compact, flexible, “cost is no object” power supplies for nuclear submarines. They’re not so great when it comes to trying to power the whole world.

    He wasn’t a “nice” guy but he did a great job of getting jobs done. If his marching orders had been to do what needs to be done now, we wouldn’t now be worrying about global warming or have already wasted thousands of lives & trillions of tax dollars trying to keep order over the Middle East’s oil sheikdoms (that job would have been accomplished too with quite different reactors).

  9. I have some concern about locating a new reactor at INL. If the spent fuel is to be stored there indefinitely I think some effort should be made to evaluate the risk of volcanic eruptions in the region.

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