DOE funding for advanced nuclear technology impacts public power

U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry on April 27 said that the U.S. Department of Energy has selected 13 projects to receive approximately $60 million in federal funding for cost-shared research and development for advanced nuclear technologies.

The selections are the first under DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy’s U.S. Industry Opportunities for Advanced Nuclear Technology Development funding opportunity announcement. Subsequent quarterly application review and selection processes will be conducted over the next five years.

The DOE said that funding opportunity announcement covers three funding pathways:

  • First-of-a-Kind Nuclear Demonstration Readiness Project pathway: Intended to address major advanced reactor design development projects or complex technology advancements for existing plants which have significant technical and licensing risk and have the potential to be deployed by the mid-to-late 2020s;
  • Advanced Reactor Development Projects pathway: Allows a broad scope of proposed concepts and ideas that are best suited to improving the capabilities and commercialization potential of advanced reactor designs and technologies;
  • Regulatory Assistance Grants: Provide direct support for resolving design regulatory issues, regulatory review of licensing topical reports or papers, and other efforts focused on obtaining certification and licensing approvals for advanced reactor designs and capabilities.

One of the projects chosen under the First-of-a-Kind Nuclear Demonstration Readiness Project pathway involves NuScale Power. This project will conduct design finalization activities and ensure supply chain readiness to meet a commercial operation date of 2026 for the first NuScale plant, with the DOE providing $40 million in funding. Non-DOE funding totals another $40 million.

The first commercial 12-module NuScale power plant is planned to be built on the site of the Idaho National Laboratory.

Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems in 2016 took a step forward in the development of its Carbon Free Power Project by identifying a preferred site within the boundary of the DOE's Idaho National Laboratory site near Idaho Falls, Idaho. The site selection process was conducted in collaboration with the DOE.

The Utah public power agency, which provides electricity at wholesale to more than 40 community-owned electric utilities in the Intermountain West, previously noted that it is studying the feasibility of deploying up to 12 small modular reactors at the Idaho site. One of its partners on the project is NuScale Power.

“We are pleased that with this funding the DOE has recognized the innovation and advanced nuclear technology being developed by NuScale Power,” said Doug Hunter, CEO and general manager of UAMPS. “Our careful analysis shows the NuScale SMRs will be dramatically safer, cleaner, more cost-effective, and more scalable and flexible than any other large-scale energy generation technology. It will also be carbon-free and nicely complement and enable renewable energy from wind and solar.”

Another public power entity, Energy Northwest, will operate the SMR plant.

In 2016, the American Public Power Association’s Demonstration of Energy & Efficiency Developments program approved a $125,000 grant to help UAMPS in its efforts to prepare a COL application to submit to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the SMR project. The grant was part of $436,250 in utility project grants and scholarships that were announced by the DEED program in April 2016.

NuScale on April 30 announced that the NRC has completed the first and most intensive phase of review for NuScale Power’s design certification application. NuScale’s is the first and only SMR application to ever undergo NRC review, it noted.

Meanwhile, the DOE also announced technical voucher awards to U.S. companies selected under the DOE’s Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) initiative.

Included among the companies selected to receive GAIN technology development vouchers is Terrestrial Energy USA ($500,000).

Terrestrial Energy USA in a May 2 news release said that it received an award for advanced nuclear instrumentation development work at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a U.S. government-owned nuclear laboratory located in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

This is the third award that Terrestrial Energy USA has received from the DOE under the GAIN initiative and is directed at the development of components for use within the instrumentation and control systems of an Integral Molten Salt Reactor.

Terrestrial Energy USA and Energy Northwest recently announced that they have reached a Memorandum of Understanding on the terms of the possible siting, construction and operation of an Integral Molten Salt Reactor, at one of its candidate sites, the Idaho National Laboratory in southeastern Idaho.

“We’re grateful to our regional congressional delegations for their advocacy in bringing this modern, clean-energy tech and really good jobs closer to reality in the form of small modular reactors,” said Mike Paoli, chief communications officer at Energy Northwest.

“It’s great news for the innovators at both NuScale and Terrestrial, our team at Energy Northwest, and for electricity consumers everywhere,” he said.

DOE intends to apply up to $40 million of additional FY 2018 funding to the next two quarterly award cycles for innovative proposals under the funding opportunity announcement.