Small Modular Reactors For Baseload Supply

Even with increased efficiency and more distributed generation, UAMPS forecasts that additional baseload supply will be required to complement intermittent renewable energy and to ensure the stability of the grid. Large coal plants that have provided stable baseload supply for many decades are nearing the end of their life cycles, and the regulatory climate has turned strongly against fossil fuels.

Flexible, clean, carbon-free baseload supply thus becomes a critical part of the resource mix of the future, replacing coal-fired generating assets as they retire. After carefully forecasting energy needs, and analyzing all forms of clean baseload supply, UAMPS is investigating the possibility of building a Small Modular Nuclear Reactor plant using technology provided by NuScale Power.

Leaders of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) have said many times that it will be impossible for the United States and the world to decarbonize without additional supply from nuclear reactors. Nuclear is also important for national security, to maintain U.S. scientific superiority, to increase jobs and economic opportunities in the nuclear supply chain, and to maintain a stable electrical supply to power industry, commerce and the coming electrification of transportation. Many thousands of megawatts in coal plants will be lost in the next 15 years, and must be replaced.

UAMPS is in the forefront of the nuclear frontier with its investigation of constructing a small modular reactor (SMR) plant. A preferred site has been located in the DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory reservation near Idaho Falls. DOE has become an important partner in the project, providing support and cost-sharing. UAMPS, NuScale and Energy Northwest have entered into a Teaming Agreement that outlines the parties’ intent to investigate the viability of the plant.

NuScale’s SMR design is a 50 megawatt, pressurized water reactor and high pressure steel containment, referred to as the NuScale Power Module (NPM), to distinguish it from designs that do not have an integral containment. Twelve NPMs, each with its own dedicated steam turbine generator, could be combined in a single 600 MW power plant that is safer than existing designs, cost competitive, reliable and affordable. Importantly, the innovation in the NPM design is in using and re-packaging proven pressurized light water reactor materials, fuels and safety features in a simpler, safer, more elegant way.

A decision to go forward, or not, with the SMR project will be made in 2017, as technological issues, costs and financing are better defined, and as demand is quantified through power sales contracts. The SMR project could be the first of its kind in the world.