Friday, April 12, 2024

NuScale Technology: The Bridge to Trans-Atlantic Partnerships and a Timely Solution for Levelling Up the UK

Reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050 is an important goal that scientific modelling shows will only be reached with the help of advanced nuclear reactors.

The UK has an impressive nuclear heritage, with the world’s first full-scale power station in 1956 and now over 60,000 world-class nuclear professionals helping generate 6.5 gigawatts of clean energy every year. Nuclear energy provides 15% of the UK’s energy needs from only a handful of power plants.

There is good reason to be optimistic about the future of nuclear in the UK. Even though all but one of the UK’s existing nuclear power plants are slated to retire by 2030, several more are in the process of being built. The UK Government has set an ambition to quadruple nuclear power generating capacity from 6.5 to 24 gigawatts by 2050, equating to around 25% of UK electricity, with both major UK political parties agreeing on a vital role for new nuclear in achieving net zero targets.

The Government is already looking toward advanced nuclear to answer this need by announcing the deployment of a small modular reactor (SMR) by the early 2030s, and NuScale is well-positioned to help the UK achieve its goals.

NuScale is the industry frontrunner

At the turn of the century, Dr. José Reyes started to develop a smaller light-water reactor at Oregon State University. NuScale Power was formed in 2007 and is now the leader of a global SMR race.

Years of research and development led by Dr. Reyes resulted in a reactor design based on conventional nuclear technology that is smaller, simpler and safer.

The NuScale Power Module™ is a 77 megawatt integral pressurized water reactor that employs gravity-driven natural circulation of the primary coolant for both normal operation and shutdown mode. NuScale’s VOYGR™ SMR power plant design can accommodate up to 12 power modules, resulting in a total output of 924 megawatts.

The near-term deployable design, which includes a fully passive safety system, has been certified by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission after being thoroughly tested and validated. Because of this, it is the first SMR to receive design approval from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and is able to be sited where clean energy is needed all day, every day, year-round.

NuScale SMRs contain multiple solutions

A NuScale VOYGRTM power plant can fit within the confines of an existing coal-fired power plant property, and can repurpose existing infrastructure, such as cooling water delivery systems, demineralised water, potable water, site fire protection, and switchyard, as well as administrative, warehouse, and other existing buildings. Additionally, being in close proximity to an existing transmission system removes the need to construct additional transmission infrastructure.

All remaining coal-fired power stations in the UK are slated to be closed by 2024. NuScale SMRs can easily be situated in these retiring stations and use existing infrastructure and energy personnel to provide cost-competitive and secure energy.

SMR technology can complement renewable energy infrastructure (e.g., wind, solar) by ensuring the delivery of constant baseload power at prices similar to other sources of reliable, zero-carbon generation.

In addition to providing clean energy baseload power, NuScale SMRs can be engaged for otherwise hard-to-decarbonise sectors, such as process heat for industrial applications, fertiliser production, water desalination, and hydrogen production.

One NuScale Power Module can produce 2,053 kilograms per hour of hydrogen or nearly 50 metric tons per day.

The UK could be a global exports leader

NuScale technology in the UK would represent an export opportunity to the world. To reach net zero by 2050, 24 gigawatts of nuclear energy will need to be added to worldwide generation each year according to International Energy Agency modelling.

NuScale has strong financial backing from the U.S. Department of Energy, and development of NuScale power plants leveraging the UK’s supply chain can strengthen the trans-Atlantic partnership between the U.S. and the UK.

Such a trans-Atlantic trade partnership has common national objectives for SMR technology: low electricity costs; economic prosperity through jobs, intellectual property development, export opportunity, energy security, and a reduction in carbon emissions.

Timely development is needed to level up the country

Levelling up means that the use of new nuclear technology deployment in the North will support significant economic growth in economically stagnant areas.

With their flexibility and smaller land footprint, SMRs can be deployed at key national energy centres, helping to level up the country.

Having regulatory approval in the U.S. means that NuScale has amassed all of the information needed to effectively undergo a similar review through the UK Generic Design Approval process, and NuScale technology could be powering UK homes and businesses as soon as 2029. 

A NuScale plant represents a century-long investment in a community, yielding 1,200 construction jobs over three years. After it is built, a 12-module NuScale plant is expected to support about 270 operation jobs and 677 indirect jobs for 60 years. This is about twice the workforce of a similarly-sized coal plant and six times that of combined cycle natural gas plant.

NuScale uses many commercial grade, “off-the-shelf” items, so there’s less need for new development or fabrication, or equipment supplied under very stringent and costly nuclear standards. This also means that local suppliers can provide the majority of materials needed for construction. Up to 85% of a NuScale plant’s content can be sourced from UK supply chains.

That is why NuScale has already established strategic partnerships with potential UK customers and suppliers such as Ultra Electronics, and Sheffield Forgemasters. The supply chain required for the deployment of three NuScale power plants would create over 14,000 direct jobs.

NuScale has placed the order for the first upper reactor pressure vessel to be used at the Idaho National Laboratory site, marking the commencement of the manufacturing phase for the company’s SMR technology.

The first SMRs in Europe by 2029

In Romania, Nuclearelectrica plans to deploy a 6-module NuScale VOYGR plant at a retired coal plant in Doicesti. With this partnership, Romania has the potential to become a catalyst for SMRs in the region.

NuScale has a definitive early works agreement with KGHM, a Poland-based leader in copper and silver production and large industrial energy user, for the first deployment of SMRs in Poland, as early as 2029. This project will demonstrate the ability for industrial providers to decarbonise their manufacturing processes at the source.

NuScale is beyond R&D, and ready for deployment

In contrast to other companies in the SMR industry that are still in the early stages of design development with aspirational targets for performance, cost, and plant deployments, NuScale is looking to deploy power plants in the UK in order to respond to immediate customer interest. We are well beyond the research and development phase and ready for deployment.

It is clear that the UK is investing in advanced nuclear technology and NuScale can help the country solve the challenges of expediency, international collaboration, export opportunities and national levelling up efforts.

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