NuScale Power is a private company based in the United States that is devleoping a small modular reactor (SMR), a type of nuclear fission reactor smaller than conventional reactors.
The SMR from NuScale is expected to the the first SMR to become commercially available. According to estimates from the U.S. Department of Energy, we can expect the first NuScale SMRs to hit the market around the year 2025.
Short facts about the NuScale reactor
- Size: The reactor vessel is 65 feet tall, with a diameter of 9 feet.
- Weight: The reactor vessel weighs 650 tons (590 metric tons).
- Electricity production: The reactor is projected to produce 60 megawatts of electricity and require refueling with standard 4.95% enriched uranium-235 fuel every two years.
- Facility requirement: The module is intended to be kept in an underground waterfilled pool that is covered by a concrete lid.
- Cooling system: The cooling system is a light water cooling system, which is similar to the system used in conventional power plants. The water-circulation carried out by a passive system that will work without a powered pump or similar circulatory equipment.
- Logistics: The modules will be pre-fabricated small enough to be delivered by railcar, barge or speciality truck. Assembly will then take place on the site.
The light water approach
NuScale has opted for the light water approach to cooling and power generation. This system is the same as in convention nuclear power plants.
- The nuclear core is located at the base of the reactor vessel.
- The nuclear core will heat up the surrounding water.
- Heated water will rise inside the riser, and then run down over steam generators.
- Heat energy is transfered from the water to the steam generators. Because of this, the water will cool down, and thus sink back to the bottom again.
- The cycle will repeat over and over again.
(The energy transfered to the steam generators is used to create steam, which in turn runs a turbine that drives an electrical generator. This is how the electricity is generated.)
NuScale’s SMR is expected to hit the market before any of the competing SMR’s that are using molten metals instead of light water for their cooling systems. However, when those SMR’s finally are ready for commercial use, they are projected to operate at higher, more efficient temperatures.
About NuScale Power limited liability company
NuScale Power was founded in the university town Corvallis in Orgeon, but it nowadays headquartered in Tigard, which is a part of Oregon’s Portland Metropolitan Area. The company still has an office in Corvallis, and that is also where the production facility is located. In addition to this, there are NuScale offices in Charlotte, North Carolina and Rockville, Maryland. NuScale still maintains a testing facility at Oregon State University in Corvallis, but also have two other ones in Italy.
NuScale has its roots in research funded by the United States Department of Energy in 2000-2003 and carried out at the Oregon State University, the Idaho National Laboratory, and several other colleges. When funding of the project ended, scientists who had worked with it obtained related patents, and NuScale was founded by Paul. G. Lorenzini and Jose Reyes to commercialize the technology.
In 2011, NuScale went through a major turmoil as its largest investor, the Kenwood Group, had his assets frozen and later pleaded guilty to operating a Ponzi scheme. The Ponzi scheme was not related to the group’s dealings with NuScale, but the issue still meant trouble for NuScale since they had expected additional funding from Kenwood. Eventually, NuScale was saved by funding from the Fluor Corporation and the U.S. Department of Energy.