Utah Utilities, NuScale Cancel Nuclear Energy Project

Model of NuScale SMR project

(Credit: NuScale)

by | Nov 13, 2023

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Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) and NuScale have mutually agreed to terminate construction of their Carbon Free Power Project, a small modular reactor-based nuclear project meant to provide clean energy for more than 300,000 homes and businesses.

After 10 years of working on the six-reactor plant, the companies found it unlikely that they would have enough subscribers from local power providers to continue the project. According to UAMPS, most potential subscribers were unwilling to take on the risks of developing the first-of-its-kind nuclear project. Financing was a major obstacle as many utilities were overwhelmed by soaring costs of the project, which had reached $9.3 billion, according to a report from Science Magazine.

The Department of Energy had been supporting the project, hoping to scale up clean, nuclear energy to help meet United States emissions goals. The cost and time intensity of large-scale nuclear reactors have led to skepticism around building new projects, so small modular reactors (SMRs) have been proposed as a more cost-effective alternative.

NuScale has the only SMR design certified for use in the U.S., and the project was a first attempt at deploying the new technology.

Some parties claim investment in nuclear, even the less cost-intensive SMR technology, is not worth its associated costs. The Environmental Working Group, in an Associated Press report on the project cancellation, said that the DOE wasted more than half a billion dollars in taxpayer money when funding could instead be directed toward other proven renewables, such as solar and wind.

Some Gains Despite Cancellation, Nuclear Reportedly Important for Clean Energy Goals

The DOE said that although the cancellation was “unfortunate news,” not all was lost — NuScale reported gaining valuable information, such as design plans and regulatory progress, that may be used in future projects.

Nuclear energy is reportedly a required factor in meeting U.S. clean energy goals, and the DOE said that nuclear remains an important part of the country’s energy portfolio. Currently, nuclear power provides 20% of the nation’s clean energy, making it the largest source of clean power in the country.

“Our work with CFPP over the past ten years has advanced NuScale technology to the stage of commercial deployment; reaching that milestone is a tremendous success which we will continue to build on with future customers,” said John Hopkins, president and CEO of NuScale. “NuScale will continue with our other domestic and international customers to bring our American SMR technology to market and grow the U.S. nuclear manufacturing base, creating jobs across the U.S. We thank UAMPS for the collaboration that has enabled this advancement.”

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