By Lindsay Potter
NuScale Power Corp., the first company to win approval for a small “modular” nuclear reactor (SMNR) design in the U.S., pulled the plug on its flagship project in Utah after costs ballooned 53 percent. NuScale and non-profit state utility partner UAMPS agreed to build a dozen 77-megawatt reactors at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) to begin delivering electricity in 2029. But the cost per-megawatt-hour rose from $53 to $89, and subscribers began to pull out. The deal was canceled in November despite receiving $232 million in federal taxpayer handouts from a $1.4 billion non-competitive DOE grant.
INL uses nuclear reactors and related radioactive material to research and manufacture systems for energy production as well as military technology. The lab is the lead manufacturer of armor, featuring depleted uranium, for U.S. Abrams tanks. Export-version (non-D.U.-armored) Abrams have been used to fire D.U. munitions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and most recently in Ukraine.
NuScale chief executive officer John Hopkins said, “Once you’re on a dead horse, you dismount quickly. That’s where we are here.” Another deal with Standard Power to build 24 SMNRs is faltering, and NuScale has ambitions to sell reactors to Romania, Kazakhstan, Poland, and Ukraine — despite the clear warning bells of the nuclear time bomb at Zaporizhzhia.
NuScale pitches their project as “carbon free,” failing to acknowledge the carbon-intensive nuclear fuel chain, production of the reactors, and radioactive waste handling and transportation. David Schlissel, director at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis said, “We are happy for the communities who dodged a huge financial debacle … As we have repeatedly shown, SMNRs that are being hyped by the nuclear industry and its allies are simply too late, too expensive, too uncertain … There are less risky and more proven alternatives for addressing growing energy needs and the global warming crisis.”