Carbon Free Power Project
- Frequently Asked Questions | Carbon Free Power Project
Which entities are involved in the project and what is their role?
NuScale Power is an Oregon-based company developing the 12-module small modular reactor plant that would be built on the Idaho desert as part of the Carbon Free Power Project. The NuScale SMR is the first to begin the process of getting Nuclear Regulatory Commission approval to build a small modular reactor in the U.S. The NuScale reactor is essentially a smaller, more configurable version of the 99 nuclear reactors currently providing the U.S. with nearly 60 percent of its clean, carbon-free electricity.
U.S. Department of Energy is the federal agency responsible for implementing energy policy in the U.S., including research and development related to nuclear energy. DOE owns the 890-square-mile complex west of Idaho Falls. DOE’s Idaho Site houses Idaho National Laboratory’s research facilities; the Idaho Cleanup Project’s legacy waste cleanup operations; and the Defense Department’s Naval Reactors Facility. The DOE Idaho Operations Office manages the process for siting the SMR project on its land.
Idaho National Laboratory is part of the DOE national laboratory complex and is the nation’s lead facility for nuclear energy research. INL experts helped select the DOE location on which UAMPS has proposed building the SMR plant using the NuScale technology. INL also is assisting with other technical aspects of the project, including modeling and simulation of SMR components and systems. INL and DOE recently established the Joint Use Modular Plant (JUMP) program to conduct research and demonstrate safe, secure and resilient microgrid systems. INL leads DOE’s Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) program that makes assets of DOE’s national labs available to assist industry in bringing nuclear energy technology to market, to help provide the nation with clean, reliable, nuclear energy.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is an independent agency created by Congress to ensure the safe use of radioactive materials for beneficial civilian purposes while protecting people and the environment. The NRC regulates commercial nuclear power plants and other uses of radioactive materials, such as nuclear medicine, through licensing, inspection and enforcement of its requirements. The Carbon Free Power Project must undergo extensive NRC safety and licensing reviews before it can be built on the Idaho desert.
Energy Northwest is a Washington state public power agency that owns and operates a diverse mix of clean energy resources, including the Columbia Generating Station nuclear energy facility in Richland. Energy Northwest has the option to operate the Carbon Free Power Project for UAMPS if the plant is approved.
Fluor Corporation is a publicly traded engineering company and a major investor in the NuScale SMR commercialization efforts.
Fluor also manages the Idaho Cleanup Project waste remediation work overseen by DOE’s Office of Environmental Management through the DOE-Idaho Operations Office.
The Tennessee Valley Authority is a corporate agency of the United States that provides electricity for business customers and local power distributors serving 9 million people in parts of seven southeastern states. TVA is also pursuing an early site permit for small modular reactors at its Clinch River Nuclear site. UAMPS and TVA are planning to work together with DOE to develop the Standard Content portions of a Combined License Application (COLA). TVA would bring their vast nuclear power knowledge and experience to bear to help ensure a high-quality license application.
Is this project new? What is the status of the project?
- 2015 – DOE awards $16.7 million to NuScale for the preparation of a combined construction and operating license for the UAMPS project. Thirty-two of UAMPS’ 45 members elected to participate in the Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP).
- 2016 – NuScale asks the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to approve the company’s SMR commercial power plant design.
- 2017 – INL, UAMPS and NuScale propose DOE reserve or purchase two of the 12 SMR modules for research and commercial demonstration of grid and hybrid energy test/pilot-scale programs.
- April 2018 – NRC completes the first and most intensive phase of review for NuScale Power’s design certification application. It is the first SMR application to undergo review and represents a major step forward for this new class of nuclear technology.
- December 2018 – The Department of Energy, UAMPS and Battelle Energy Alliance sign a Memorandum of Understanding that allocates one of the SMR modules for research and development for the JUMP program and to explore a power purchase agreement to provide electricity to meet INL’s power needs.
- 2018-2019 – UAMPS members vote on whether to finance and/or back the Carbon Free Power Project.
Where on the INL Site would the power plant be located?
Why the INL Site? Why not somewhere else?
INL has produced environmental data over many years that will be useful to the applicant in preparing the required environmental documentation necessary to meet an NRC licensing application. Having the site so well-characterized may ultimately allow UAMPS to realize a cost savings to its members and their customers over having to produce the data from scratch. The site also has excellent access to major transmission lines for electricity distribution.
Why is UAMPS interested in deploying an SMR in Idaho?
Because major projects require years to plan, construct and bring online, decisions must be made today to ensure adequate supplies a decade from now for an energy-hungry society featuring electric vehicles and myriad mobile digital devices.
After much sophisticated resource planning and hard-nosed analysis, UAMPS member utilities have concluded that once certified by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the NuScale small modular reactor technology would provide the best solution for clean, safe, reliable, long-term and flexible supply. UAMPS coal properties have been workhorses for decades, but they are reaching the end of their life cycles, and must be replaced with carbon-free supply. Nuclear energy is attractive because it emits no carbon or pollutants and produces massive amounts of reliable, stable energy, decade after decade.
Idaho Falls Power is a member of UAMPS, so a site in Idaho quickly became a top prospect as various sites were considered.
Is DOE paying for the construction and operation of an SMR on the INL Site?
Is the SMR on the INL Site a DOE-sponsored project?
However, DOE is supporting the project through a cost-shared cooperative agreement with UAMPS for the site selection and license application preparation for the Carbon Free Power Project as part of the SMR Licensing Technical Support program.
Why would DOE let a commercial company build a reactor at the INL Site?
What is the approval process for this project? Who would be the regulator?
Would this/these facilities provide power for the grid? Would this power remain for use in Idaho, or would it be exported?
What is in it for UAMPS members and Idaho citizens? Would Idaho citizens realize power cost savings as a result of an SMR being built in Idaho?
Moreover, the CFPP would be a source of jobs during project construction and throughout its operation, which is expected to last about 60 years. The CFPP construction project would involve more than 1,000 construction workers at the site. During plant operations, the CFPP is expected to employ about 360 full-time staff.
Who has final say on a site selection?
Would the proposed power plant produce waste?
Would the proposed plant use water? If so, how much?
NuScale estimates its water-cooled plants would consume approximately 740 gallons per megawatt hour, which is consistent with the existing U.S. nuclear fleet as well as coal-fired, oil-fired, gas-fired, solar-thermal and biofuel-fired plants. (The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) found large-scale nuclear and thermoelectric plants use between 600 and 800 gallons of water per megawatt hour when relying on wet cooling towers in nominal conditions.)
However, even if UAMPS opts for the wet cooling design, the proposed SMR plant would consume less water annually than a large nuclear power plant simply because of its smaller power output. Most nuclear power plants in the U.S. generate 1,000-plus megawatts of electricity. The proposed Carbon Free Power Project is a 720-megawatt plant.