Rendering of 6-unit NuScale VOYGR SMR plant.

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

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 Mied┼║ 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 ├śrsted 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.

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Overhead satellite view of a coal-fired power plant next to a heat map showing the suitability of terrain in the region for siting a nuclear power plant

Coal To Nuclear Transition To Decarbonize The Grid

We love big projects here at Hackaday, and one of the biggest underway is the decarbonization of the electric grid. The US Department of Energy (DOE) recently published a report (PDF) on how placing nuclear reactors on coal plant sites in the US could help us get closer to the zero carbon grid of our dreams.

After evaluating both operating and recently retired coal-fired plants in the US, the researchers determined that around 80% of medium and large coal plants would be good candidates for coal to nuclear (C2N). Up to 263 GWe could be installed at over 315 different sites around the country which would be more than the 145 GWe expected to go offline as the remaining coal plants in the country shut down. Siting nuclear reactors at these existing sites could reduce installation costs 15-35% while also providing jobs for workers in the area who might otherwise be displaced when the coal plants shut down. Local greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) could drop up to 86% along with a significant drop in other air pollutants which would be another win for the fenceline communities living and working around these coal plants.

Nuclear power is certainly not without its drawbacks, but new reactor designs like TerraPower’s Natrium promise lower costs than current light water reactor designs while also being able to reuse the spent fuel from our current nuclear fleet. TerraPower is developing the first C2N project in the US at the Naughton Power Plant in Kemmerer, Wyoming.

We’ve recently covered Cogeneration and District Heating which would get a boost from more nuclear power, but, if that’s too grounded for you, might we suggest Space-Based Solar Power?