Utah NuScale Nuclear Plant Project Canceled Due To Lack Of Interest From Utilities

Rendering of 6-unit NuScale VOYGR SMR plant.

Intended to be the first 6-unit deployment of NuScale’s 77 MW VOYGR small modular reactors (SMRs), the Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP) in Utah was scheduled to begin construction by 2025 on the grounds of the Idaho National Laboratory (INL), yet it has now been canceled by NuScale (press release) after not finding enough utilities interested in purchasing power from the nuclear plant. This led NuScale and UAMPS (Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems) to back out of the CFPP project.

To be clear, it seems this decision neither reflects on SMRs as a whole, nor NuScale’s prospects. Currently NuScale still has a number of projects which it is involved in, including the use of its SMR technology with the Polish copper and silver producer KGHM Polska Miedź SA. Demand for SMRs is also being flooded with various designs by both established and start-up companies, with TerraPower’s Natrium reactor seeing additional demand, including at the Kemmerer site in Wyoming.

Meanwhile, the European Commission is establishing an SMR Industrial Alliance, and countries like Norway are looking to build their first nuclear plants using SMRs, which includes Danish Seaborg’s molten salt reactor. In the end it should be clear that whether a singular infrastructure project works out economically or not depends on many factors. This can also be seen with e.g. wind farm projects, where Danish Ørsted canceled two large US offshore wind projects, Swedish Vattenfall abandoned its new British offshore wind project due to rising costs and Siemens Energy is having to borrow billions of Euros to patch up financial holes in its Spanish wind turbine unit.

59 thoughts on “Utah NuScale Nuclear Plant Project Canceled Due To Lack Of Interest From Utilities

  1. The issue is that renewable power is both less expensive and more expensive. An utility can get a power purchasing agreement (PPA) out of a solar array or a wind farm for $20-30 per MWh because the taxpayers are paying the rest in subsidies and price guarantees, and other indirect incentives, while the nuclear plant would have to ask $40-50 because they don’t get direct subsidies and no guaranteed prices. Selling nuclear power is actually taxed by the government more than any government investment or aid into it.

    The second issue is that with the massive swings of renewable power output on the grid, there just isn’t any room for nuclear power, since it would have to back off every time it gets windy – or the utility would have to lose the renewable power output by curtailing the generators. Nuclear and intermittent renewables just don’t play well together.

      1. Storage is an expense, adding to the cost of energy quite tremendously. That’s why nuclear and renewables can co-exist mainly in places where you have lots of cheap hydro power, because the dams act as storage.

        Elsewhere, if you start looking at batteries, the price goes up 10-100 fold and it’s only economically sensible for peak load following where you have to use expensive diesel generators and once-through gas turbines in the first place.

          1. This is something being done already for water towers: elevated water tanks onto which water is pumped, providing the pressure needed for water distribution.

            They are already distributed, they are already some form of kinetic batteries, and no loss at the conversion because the conversion from electricity to kinetic energy is required anyway.

            These pumps can be regulated to be active whenever there is excessive amount of power available, coupled with energy production.

        1. Storage is not viable in for example germany. That’s why their strategy is to go with natural gas when out of renewables. That gives much worse outcomes, that’s why they loose both in power price and co2 output compared to france. They invest in future energy storage tech but IF something comes out of it that is going to be decades away and probably going to come with different environment and geopolitical difficulties. For example hydrogen storage and transportation(pipes, tankers?), putting pv for hydrogen production en masse in Spain would be politicly hard, in Africa geopolitically hard

          1. Germany, last I checked, has a ridiculous tax scheme where power that goes through grid-connected storage is taxed twice.

            Physically, Germany should be able to use both short term storage (like batteries) and long term storage (like green hydrogen). It has very large potential for storing hydrogen underground in salt formations. Use of both should enable a 100% renewable grid without excess overbuilding of wind and solar.

        2. And nonetheless, we are all on our way to have a massive battery deployment as part of electric cars.

          Electric car charging could become clever in the moment it uses power from the grid, to compensate the bursts of available electricity from renewables on regions where they get deployed.

      2. Exactly which storage technologies are you talking about? Enlighten us please! The technologies we have right now in a market ready state are orders of magnitude (not only by capacity, but also by capacity vs. cost) away from being a significant fall-back counterpart to renewable sources.

      1. No. While nuclear power can follow load, and this is a design requirement for Gen III plants and up, its cost structure does not favor the fact.

        The plant is all that costs money – the fuel is cheap – so the price of energy depends on how much you manage to produce within the licensed operating life of the plant. If you throttle it, the capacity factor goes down and the cost of power goes up.

        It’s the same problem as with wind or solar power has: the plant costs everything and the fuel is free, so the cost of energy depends on how much you manage to sell. You get the lowest cost of energy by selling everything that you can possibly generate. If you have to curtail it, the cost of energy starts to go up.

        So you have two sets of generators that both benefit from selling everything they can possibly produce, and both are made more expensive by yielding to the other on the market. Since renewables subsidies are tied to how much they produce, the choice is that nuclear power yields and therefore becomes more expensive, and therefore utilities don’t want to buy it.

    1. “with the massive swings of renewable power output on the grid, there just isn’t any room for nuclear power”

      Nuclear is the answer for that. The problem with renewable is the massive swings it causes on the grid. It causes major issues on power grids. I think it was last year that California banned charging electric cars during specific hours, to prevent massive fires from occurring, due to exploding transformers on the grid, because of the use of wind and solar energy. Then you might think, sure, but that’s just California being California. OK, but here in the Netherlands, there are regions where new wind and solar parks can’t be build, because our network, which is one of the (if not the) best in the world, can’t handle it. You solve that by building nuclear plants. Then you don’t need solar, you don’t need wind. Nuclear plants need to be build anyway, even if you don’t use them to generate power. There is a massive shortage of nuclear waste in the western world. So much so, that’s now Germany stopped their plants, they now have to purchase so much waste from France, that we here in the Netherlands have an issue. Finland still has waste, but they raised their prices so much, it’s cheaper to import it from the US (which is, at the moment, as I heard from colleagues, not yet possible due to export restrictions).

      Wind power is in a crowded country a major annoyance. No one likes to see those things, they kill birds. I’ve stood at the base of one and I was surrounded by dead birds. And the wings can’t be recycles (just like solar panels). We have tons of solar panels at work and they need to be replaced often due to the nature of the places where we use them. Right now, the alu frames are recycled, but the rest is put in the ground, hoping to dig it up later. It’s quite a sad sight to see. I was at the place where they bury them a few years ago. Was quite a sad sight to see.

    2. > because the taxpayers are paying the rest in subsidies and price guarantees,

      1)The nuclear industry is massively subsidized and has been for well over half a century (as is gas and oil) and 2)Solar is cheaper than nuclear without any subsidies, and wind is the cheapest form of electrical generation of any method.

      IF you’re going to claim solar and wind are not price-competitive without subsidies, you need to have something to back that claim up – and that “something” needs to account for all the gas/oil/coal/nuclear subsidies.

        1. You mean the Price-Anderson act?

          Which requires that the company operating reactors must “obtain the maximum amount of insurance against nuclear related incidents which is available in the insurance market”, and then also put money into the Price-Anderson fund which covers liabilities above the private insurance up to $15 billion at its present value. In other words, the nuclear industry pays first. The government will pay liabilities that exceed what can be covered by the liability fund, and then recover the money back from the industry later.

          The idea that the government is “picking up the tab” is false. The actual criticism against the Price-Anderson mechanism is that it without the liability fund mechanism, the nuclear industry would face such high insurance premiums that they couldn’t afford it. The critics count the difference as a subsidy towards the nuclear industry, when in reality the government is making the industry put money aside into the fund to reduce the risk to the insurance providers.

      1. That’s a complete myth.


        Traditional power receives 15% of the amount of subsidies spent, renewable power gets the other 85% of the money spent (not including local/state subsidies).

        On an energy basis, it’s much worse because the capacity factor of renewable power pales in comparison to conventional power, to the tune that nuclear power might be getting $2 per MWh while renewble power gets $200/MWh.

    3. Load following is a standard feature of the French nuclear plants, and new reactor types like TerraPower’s Natrium are designed from the ground up to be extremely flexible for fast load-following, with no significant impact on operating costs or overall efficiency.

      This isn’t even remotely the issue you make it out to be, even before considering adding small buffers to nuclear plants like the Natrium’s molten salt, or battery storage to improve load following response even more.

      1. Nuclear plants can be made to technically load follow, but that doesn’t mean it’s economic for them to be used in a load following mode. Confusing these two concepts seems to be a common form of blindness among nuclear supporters, which we see at least three times in these comments.

        1. The cost for the environment is supposedly free in this type of admonition. The funny thing is that renewables and fossil fuels team up against nuclear, because _almighty capitalism_

          1. The environment argument is strongly in favor of renewables, since they can displace more CO2 per $, and go do it much more quickly than nuclear can. In the decade you wait for a nuclear plant to come online (if it does), so much CO2 will be emitted that renewables bought with the same money could have begun displacing much sooner.

  2. I’m as much for capitalism as the next guy, but I feel like SMR’s are an important enough milestone that the government should help out more in getting the first ones up and running.

    This project failing is a bad look on everyone involved – the DOE and the industry. I’m arm chair quarterbacking here, but the DOE should have chosen Tennessee to build this where they could tell TVA to make sure it succeeded.

  3. This is the kind of stuff we should be building instead of junk technologies like wind and solar. This far more reliable and more environmentally sensitive than solar or wind. It sad how much taxpayer and other money was thrown into the worthless alternative energy scam. We could have more nuclear plants like this or gas turbine.

        1. Instead of letting energy needs define how sources are engineered, would it be possible to let the energy source define the way it is used?

          Rather than saying “this industrial process needs this much kW”, another approach could be “we have this much kW coming from the grid, here is what we can turn it into”.

          If some sections of the industry can be adapted to be more flexible for energy power, that would help with the variable demand already provoking fluctuations regardless of energy source.

          I wonder if this is already applied to some extent. This might not be a complete solution. Not bad to improve industry’s flexibility in power needs either!

          1. == Cutting industrial tasks in units ==

            Each unit is an amount of electricity, qualified work, input materials, time of operation, and a start/stop process.

            For instance, operating a steel furnace with x MW for x hours with x persons and a heating and cooldown process.

            This means that whenever we know we are guaranteed to have (6 * x) hours of cheap electricity (windy/sunny day) guaranteed, then place 6 units of work of that furnace.

            Maybe this is imposed flexibility we do not want, but we want more energy than we have: a nearly infinite amount.

        2. The Swedish steel producer SSAB plans to produce fossil free steel in their HYBRIT project where they need the cheap energy that wind power can generate to make hydrogen that can be used in the production of the steel.
          They are dependent on the low prices and the variability of energy production is not a problem at all since they store energy as hydrogen.

        3. Would it make sense to have things like aluminum recycling powered from combustible energy (Nuclear could be great but does not provide high-enough energy without turning into a national safety hazard, so might require electricity conversion for heating aluminum maybe…).

          This could save in energy conversion. If fossil fuels are going to be used for something, may at least be it producing heat where heat is already needed.

        1. Is it possible that the compromise depends on the location?

          Some places might be too unstable to bare nuclear power plants.

          Others might have a large amount of potential hydro- or wind-power. Not generating electricity with that is loosing the energy.

          Others yet again might have no grid at all, like Lebanon [1] but a huge amount of sun, and the individual progressively run more solar panels: no debate can influence anything for them: people will buy whatever brings electricity back.

          There is going to be diverse sources of power regardless what discussions lead to, so does it make sense to try to improve efficiency/safety/impact each of them?

          [1] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-58856914

        2. Like thermal storage? Any place that has significant need for HVAC can take great advantage of it.
          Fun fact: pound for pound, making ice stores about as much cooling as using lithium batteries to run a conventional air conditioner. And unlike the batteries, an insulated tank of water won’t mind staying fully frozen or fully thawed for an indefinite period, has no inherent wearout mechanism, and is easily built from commonly available materials.

    1. flying over a wind farm recently i noticed that only a small number of the turbines actually had their breaks off. that means they weren’t charging storage or doing anything other than wasting space. start building the things with a hydrogen tank and generator so that it can tank up hydrogen during the windy periods and burn it during low wind conditions. hydrogen combustion burns to pure water, which can be condensed and marketed. oxygen can also be bottled for other uses and sold or used for closed cycle combustion. you can install all the equipment in the pylon, though with economy of scale the hydrogen gas might be pumped to a centralized generator somewhere in the windfarm. it doesnt store well so the sooner you use it the better. more importantly it lets you keep the blades spinning.

      1. I drive through wind farms all the time here in the midwest – they are often running at much greater capacity than that. assuming some percent is out of service for various reasons, I usually see >80% I’d estimate (the farm I drive through most often has hundreds of windmills in an array) in action.

        I’m not saying either of us have better data than the other – we’re both using anecdotes.

        you’re probably right that storage is crucial for renewables to reach the next level, but we can’t get to /that/ level without building to it. No money in developing massive storage plants without systems to feed them, ya know? chicken and egg. So I’m glad we’re building wind and solar and nuclear and whatever else we need, and that we will keep iterating the tech to get these systems more functional, and get the costs lower.

      2. You would expect to see a wind farm with generators mostly standing still, because in most places the mean or average wind speed is just on the limit of where the turbines start to generate power at 5-6 m/s. If the wind speeds were evenly distributed, you’d see the turbines standing still half the time.

        Since the wind speed distribution is not even but skewed towards lower wind speeds, most of the time the wind isn’t blowing hard enough to actually generate power. Wind farms produce over half of their energy in just 20-30% of the running hours, and the rest of the time they’re barely turning or simply stalled.

        1. This has nothing to do with having ties to “the nuclear industry”. It’s common sense. I prefer stable power, a electric net that won’t cause major issues when the sun goes down or the wind stops. Look at all the fires that happen each year in California during the summer. Sun goes down and transformers explode. People were asked to stop charging their electric cars and stop using AC etc. That’s not what we need to see in the future. Nuclear solves that, and it’s cheap, and we need nuclear waste. There are no downsides to nuclear. It’s the most environmentally friendly option, it’s safe (especially compared to coal, which is the alternative). Hydro power is great too, but only works in specific area’s. Nuclear works everywhere. And we need more nuclear plants even if we don’t connect them to the grid. My employer makes tons of money with wind energy, nothing from nuclear. I want nuclear.

          1. > And we need more nuclear plants even if we don’t connect them to the grid

            I have seen that coming-up a few times, but could not find what that means, any help for a newbie?

      1. Texas voters approved the creation of fund to loan money for the construction of gas power plants. I voted against this since should be a private sector function.

        The City of Austin some years ago bought into a biomass plant that was never used and not online during the 2021 freeze.

        I watched eyesores of wind turbines built near my parent’s home in South Texas. Fossil fuels to make the wind turbine base and blades. Fossil fuels for the concrete plant, dig the hole, fill hole with concrete, assemble the tower, etc. Where is the green here again unless you are grifting the system with never ending government tax breaks and subsidies.

  4. Nuclear energy is somewhat stagnating: https://www.statista.com/chart/28808/number-of-nuclear-programs-share-of-nuclear-energy-production/
    really curious if SMRs or other new plant types can turn this around at some point. Seeing the cost development of many new plants, I doubt it.
    Without subsidies, Wind Power & PV are the cheapest electricity generation forms since 2016: https://www.lazard.com/media/2ozoovyg/lazards-lcoeplus-april-2023.pdf
    Overbuilding Wind & PV way over average energy consumption with some storage is the way to go to make electricity cost go closer towards zero.

    1. Please don’t cite Lazard for LCOE, as it bases its statistic for nuclear power on just 1 (one) plant: the recent Vogtle AP1000 builds, which are by no means representative of the industry as a whole. Lazard admitted as much in the recent update.

  5. It’s a shame this was cancelled but companies have been opting to make use of the same old light-water reactors and scaling them down which is not a winner by any measure. They should be developing some of the more cutting-edge reactors like the molten salt thorium reactor that has been proven by China to be viable and is safer overall.

    1. Which reactor would that be? So far only India is really pursuing a thorium-based fuel cycle, and they’re using breeder reactors to turn Th-232 into U-233 before using them in regular LWRs. Sure, Th-232 can be used as fertile part of FNR fuel, which would include TerraPower’s Natrium, Rosatom’s BN-series and the equivalents in China and South Korea.

  6. I wish we could fund these instead of electric cars. If we made electricity dirt cheap then we would not only naturally incentivize people to buy electric cars but also it would encourage manufacturing to return home.

  7. Small thing, but thank you to the author of this article for including definitions for all of the abbreviations. It’s incredibly helpful and shows a skill at writing that too many “professional” journalists are oblivious to anymore.

  8. Perhaps the utilities were not interested because the power plant was in the hydro plenty Pacific Northwest?
    What if the test plant had been scheduled in a location that is heavily dependent on fossil fuels?

  9. They made their first mistake trying to sell the power to the utilities who would view this as creating a new competitor. They tolerate and purchase wind and solar only because of government green energy mandates. I think anyone that seriously digs into the issue of baseline power would concluded that niclear is almost a requirement if you want to eliminate fossil fuels.

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