Powering the Next Generation of Nuclear

The Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) is working to provide the next generation of nuclear reactors at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) in eastern Idaho. UAMPS will be siting a NuScale 12-module plant, capable of generating 720 MWe of clean electricity, within the INL’s 890-square mile site. In 2023, UAMPS members will vote on the final notice to proceed to construction, and UAMPs recently reported that it is on schedule to achieve commercial operation of the NuScale plant by 2026.

This effort is part of the UAMPS Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP), which was launched in 2014 to advance state and national efforts to reduce carbon emissions and increase air quality. In December 2017 alone, UAMPS approved distribution of power sales contracts to the thirty-four UAMPS members considering participation in the CFPP.

NuScale power plant ground level illustration

UAMPS is a public power agency that provides electricity at wholesale to more than 40 community-owned electric utilities in the Intermountain West. It provides a variety of power supply, transmission and other services to its 46 members, which include public power utilities in six Western states: Utah, California, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wyoming. According to UAMPS, the CFPP embraces distributed generation (including rooftop solar), encourages and provides tools for energy efficiency, and is investigating small modular Nuclear reactor (SMR) technology to provide future baseload supply. NuScale’s advanced SMR technology was ideal for the CFPP as it provides always-on baseload power with “load following” capability, where output is adjusted as necessary to support demand as capacity varies on the system from intermittent generation. This capability, called NuFollow™, is unique to NuScale and holds the promise of expanding the deployment of renewables for the CFPP without backup from fossil-fueled generating sources, such as natural gas, combined cycle gas turbines (CCGTs). All of these features ensure that UAMPS’ future energy supply is clean, safe, and carbon-free with both the flexibility and adaptability to meet growing energy demand and changing conditions.

Some exciting updates on the CFPP project include the announcement of a December 2018 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) executed between UAMPS, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and the Battelle Energy Alliance (BEA), which is the contractor managing the Idaho National Laboratory of the DOE (INL- DOE). The MOU describes how the first two NuScale Power Modules will be dedicated for DOE use in the Joint Use Modular Plant (JUMP) Program. The INL-DOE will lease one NuScale Power ModuleTM (NPM) to conduct research within an operating commercial reactor environment and the second NPM may be used in a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) to provide power to INL. An article by the American Public Power Association highlights that the “DOE’s research is expected to focus principally on integrated energy systems that support the production of both electricity and non-electric energy products.” NuScale’s SMR provides clean, carbon-free electricity and process heat, a necessary ingredient for non-electric industrial chemical processes to make materials for consumer goods.

“This agreement will allow DOE to meet its needs in the form of resilient power to a national security mission-based lab while drawing from our nation’s newest class of advanced reactors,” Department of Energy, NE Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary. “The JUMP program provides a unique opportunity for the nation’s leading nuclear laboratory to conduct nuclear energy research and contribute to the successful commercialization of the nation’s first SMR.” The DOE awarded $16.5 million in matching funds to perform site selection, secure site and water, and prepare the combined operating license application to Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

NuScale power plant at night

As a result of these new developments, several UAMPS members who did not participate in the original feasibility study are now considering executing Power Purchase Agreements, and several non-UAMPS public power and investor-owned utilities are considering participation. The DOE and UAMPS intend to work together to engage the local utility, Idaho Power, regarding the supply of power produced by the project to support INL’s energy needs, since the INL will need up to 70 megawatts of power in the 2025-2030 timeframe.

The CFPP project will also provide high-quality jobs and economic development to the region, and act as a catalyst for subsequent SMR projects throughout the West. In January 2019, the Idaho State Journal reported that the construction phase of the NuScale 12-module SMR plant “would have a fiscal impact of over $36 million and employ about 2,000 people… and after construction, it would employ about 360 people on a continuing basis at high wages.” Idaho State Rep. Wendy Horman (R-Ammon) stated that “These are good jobs. These are the kinds of jobs we want in Southeast Idaho.” Rep. Horman was among several other Idaho lawmakers of Boise’s Energy and Technology Caucus which met in January to share information about Idaho National Laboratory, the sixth largest private employer in the state, and promote greater awareness among legislators regarding the types of energy projects it engages in and the significant economic benefits it provides to both eastern and greater Idaho.

NuScale is pleased to share this update about UAMPS, our first customer and invaluable partner in bringing the next generation of nuclear to the United States. We look forward to sharing more on UAMPS progress with the CFPP in future issues.