NuScale Power: 45 MWe nuclear heat source

Rod Adams #100 podcast is especially interesting — even exciting when you consider the possibilities of mass manufactured, modular reactors. There are at least two venture-backed companies developing small reactors: NuScale Power and Hyperion Power Generation.

For this podcast Rod interviews CEO Paul Lorenzini and Chief Scientist Jose Reyes about their company’s 45 MWe natural circulation light water reactor. The NuScale reactor is about 1/30th the size of a typical modern light water reactor. Rod summarizes:

…Its advantage is that it produces power with a greatly simplified system that has no valves, pumps or external piping systems. It operates at temperatures and pressures that are familiar in the industry, uses fuel that can be manufactured on the same lines as conventional reactor fuel, and uses conventional pressure vessel technology that is small enough to be produced in a number of qualified factories.

One key feature of this small reactor is that it will be completely assembled in a factory and shipped to the site ready for installation.

The entire reactor assembly is only 60’ x 15’, prefabricated and shipped by rail, truck or barge. There are a number of other important advantages to the NuScale design. E.g., an expandable generation plant can be rapidly constructed from any number of 45 MWe modules. So a plant of say ten modules can then be online refueled one module at a time, temporarily taking offline only 10% of the baseload capacity. Of course, as load grows the operator can just add bite-size modules as required.

An overview of the technology and company is here [PDF]. Not discussed in the interview is how the NuScale economics compare to the large gigawatt size reactors such as the Westinghouse AP1000 — where the operator needs initially, or expands to a 30 module size plant.

More background on both NuScale and Hyperion can be found in this CleanTechnica article, also by Rod Adams — excerpt:

The system grew out of a DOE funded effort at Oregon State University (OSU) (corrected from initial post) called MASLWR (Multi-Application Light Water Reactor) that was developed to enable smaller markets to gain access to the benefits of nuclear fission energy – zero emissions, independence from fossil fuels, greater reliability, and increased levels of technical employment.

After the initial federal research grants ended and OSU published its results in 2003, the University continued funding the research and made continued improvements and refinements to the design. Several patents were filed in November 2007 and the company received its initial round of venture funding in January 2008.

NuScale’s employee roster is full of OSU graduates. It is also teaming with Kiewit a well established architect engineering firm with a history that dates back to before the depression.

NuScale is backed by venture firm CMEA Ventures – whose energy technology portfolio includes advanced battery innovator A123 Systems. So NuScale is in company with the fast horses.