This fall, two important meetings moved the Pacific Northwest and the nation closer to the eventuality of Small Modular Reactors on the grid, and to building those SMRs in new manufacturing facilities. One meeting took place in Washington state and the other in Washington D.C. The NuScale Power SMR, born of Oregon State University, was featured at both meetings.
Energy Northwest is part of the SMR initiative: The first commercial NuScale reactors are scheduled to be installed in Idaho with the power going to the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (based in Salt Lake City), and Energy Northwest acting as the first operator. Hopefully, this will be the first of many SMRs to be installed throughout the country.
Now to the meetings…
The White House Summit on Nuclear Energy: Nov. 6, 2015
The White House organized the Washington D.C. meeting and reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to nuclear energy. The fact sheet for the White House Summit is titled: Obama Administration Announces Actions to Ensure that Nuclear Energy Remains a Vibrant Component of the United States’ Clean Energy Strategy.
Why? The fact sheet makes clear what some are still reluctant to understand:
Nuclear power, which in 2014 generated about 60 percent of carbon-free electricity in the United States, continues to play a major role in efforts to reduce carbon emissions from the power sector.
As America leads the global transition to a low-carbon economy, the continued development of new and advanced nuclear technologies along with support for currently operating nuclear power plants is an important component of our clean energy strategy.
To summarize, nuclear provides clean air energy and jobs. We need both.
Of particular interest to Washington state, the Summit announced many new initiatives for bringing SMRs to market, and to the grid. One major initiative is…
The Department of Energy Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors is signing an agreement with NuScale to develop modeling and simulation tools. In this cost-shared venture, CASL will install simulation tools on NuScale systems, and NuScale will simulate performance using the CASL tools.
And after simulation comes…
The Department of Energy is investing $452 million dollars, over a six-year span, beginning in 2012. This money supports the engineering expenses at NRC that will be associated with first-of-a-kind licensing for SMRs. This is also another cost-share agreement with private industry. Without this type of industry-government cooperation, the cost of obtaining a first-of-a-kind license would be prohibitive. Estimates for a first-of-a-kind license run to over one billion dollars.
You can watch the entire White House Summit on Nuclear Energy at this link.
Dr. Jose Reyes of NuScale is a member of the Innovation Panel, which discusses new types of reactors. This panel begins at 3:05 (three hours and five minutes) into the program. During his portion, Dr. Reyes explains the worldwide potential demand for small nuclear reactors.
We’ve provided a video clip of a portion of his presentation below:
The Washington State Task Force
The Washington State Legislature’s Joint Select Task Force on Nuclear Energy focuses on encouraging the possible role of Washington state as a base for the manufacture of SMRs. As you can see in the Final Report from last year (issued in December) some of the members of the Task Force toured NuScale Power in November 2014.
The Washington State Task Force is an on-going effort, and far more focused than the Washington D.C. Summit Meeting, which seems to have been a one-time event. The DC meeting was a very nice one-time event, because of the support shown for SMRs, but without the virtues of a task force.
In the document above, you can see that the Washington State Task Force reviews many aspects of developing SMRs, both technical aspects and the possible benefits of new manufacturing in Washington state.
The Washington D.C. meeting did not include any written presentations, viewgraphs or visual aids. In contrast, the Washington State Task force has an abundance of information in presentations. The 2014 presentations are here. I especially recommend the DOE presentation on SMR market perspective, and the presentation by Energy Northwest, and NuScale Power.
The meeting notes for 2015 are not yet posted, but they are even more informative. In 2015, NuScale shows a slide in which the components necessary for a NuScale reactor are shown in black type, while the components necessary for a full-scale reactor are shown in light-gray type.
This is a very dramatic slide, despite being all words in black and white! It shows that SMRs are not just shrunken versions of full-scale reactors: They are truly re-engineered and simplified. Passive safety design can actually be a simpler design.
D.C. and Washington State: Both playing their best roles
I would say that if you really want to know about how SMRs are going to be built and deployed, the ongoing task force of the Washington State legislature has solid information and readable documents. However, I hope that the Nuclear Energy Summit in Washington D.C. will also be helpful to the future of nuclear energy and the future of Washington state. In that meeting, DOE in Washington D.C. announced it would also play its best role: helping nuclear entrepreneurs access the National Labs, and helping new reactors get licensed.
Washington D.C. and Washington state cooperating on Small Modular Reactors: that would be a win-win for everyone.
(Post by Meredith Angwin)