Nuclear Stress Test Is Failed By NuScale And It Is a Setback for the Future of Industry.
Nov 14, 2023
Here’s a nuclear stress test for NuScale, the power business that announced plans to build a first-of-its-kind nuclear reactor in Idaho, striking a blow to an industry that looked poised to play a greater part in the energy revolution.
Existing American reactors are substantially bigger and are often designed for specific locations. They may take decades to build, are typically prohibitively expensive, and encounter community opposition, which is why so few have been built in recent decades.
According to the Energy Information Administration, a nuclear reactor that began operations in Georgia this year was the first to be built in the United States since 2016, and it came in over budget and seven years late. Nuclear power’s contribution to the nation’s energy output has been declining in recent years, and it is presently estimated to be approximately 18%.
Some nuclear power supporters support the concept of compact modular reactors that can be produced using standardized processes. That would presumably make them cheaper and faster to build. Nuclear power can assist in decarbonizing electricity systems at a time when solar and wind projects aren’t ready to take on the whole burden.
However, NuScale’s newest setback, disclosed this week, contradicts such expectations and may set back the whole business. The Idaho reactor’s construction expenses have been growing. The project was anticipated to cost $5.3 billion in 2021, but that figure has risen to $9.3 billion this year. The plant’s electricity was predicted to cost $89 per megawatt-hour, up from $58 in 2021. In addition, the corporation stated that not enough clients had joined up.
Nonetheless, NuScale stated on its earnings call last week that building the project helped it refine processes for manufacturing the reactors and was a tremendous success for their business.
According to the firm, NuScale has achieved the commercial deployment stage and will continue to build on that success with future clients both in the United States and overseas.
Based on info from critics, the project was even more troublesome. The Union of Concerned Scientists’ head of nuclear power safety, Dr. Edwin Lyman, stated in a statement that NuScale made several ill-advised design choices in an attempt to control the cost of its reactor, which raised numerous safety concerns.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, according to the firm, undertook a thorough evaluation of NuScale’s design, which included more than two million pages of supporting information submitted by the company.
The NRC has authorized NuScale’s tiny reactor design, but it is not the only business attempting to make this work.
Bill Gates established TerraPower, which also manufactures modular reactors. That business launched its first lab in 2012 and has gotten government support, but it is still working on bringing its first reactor online.
The corporation indicated in a statement that it is moving forward.
“TerraPower remains fully committed to the Natrium Demonstration Project being developed in Wyoming as part of the public-private U.S. Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP),” the statement said.
However, Lyman stated that NuScale’s failure of the nuclear stress test is troublesome for other businesses working on modular reactors. The design of NuScale is comparable to that of the massive reactors presently in operation in the United States. He believes that newer designs may encounter even greater hurdles.
This most recent setback “does not bode well for the dozens of other, more exotic reactor types in various stages of development that are being touted as the next best thing in nuclear power,” he added.