In a significant blow to President Biden’s clean energy agenda, NuScale Power, a company based in Portland, announced on November 9, 2023, that it was canceling a partnership that would have brought the first small modular nuclear reactors to the United States. The company’s small modular reactor design, which has earned certification from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, promised more affordable construction and operating costs and increased safety compared to traditional nuclear power plants. The project, known as the Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP), was a partnership between NuScale, the Department of Energy, and the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems.
The CFPP, initiated in 2015, aimed to build a 720-megawatt carbon-free power plant at the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory using 12 of NuScale’s reactors. The project’s downfall was hastened by the surge in interest rates and the strain of inflation. Inflation caused the prices of several component parts to increase by as much as 106% in some cases, resulting in a 75% increase in the project’s cost to $9.3 billion, and a 50% increase in the cost of power.
Several communities also withdrew their commitments to buy power from the new reactors, which were set to go operational in 2030. Despite the setback, NuScale CEO John Hopkins called the company’s work with the CFPP and the Department of Energy a “tremendous success,” and reaffirmed the company’s commitment to bringing small modular reactors to U.S. and international customers. The project in Idaho was set to be the inaugural commercial venture for NuScale. Following the announcement, the company’s stock fell by 33%. NuScale is obligated to remit a termination fee of $49.8 million to UAMPS.
The U.S. Department of Energy under President Trump had approved a $35 billion cost-sharing agreement over 10 years for the CFPP. NuScale, which is headquartered in Portland, Oregon, had been the recipient of approximately $232 million from that funding. The termination of the project is a notable hindrance to the Biden administration’s green energy plan. This plan has been advocating for the creation and use of cutting-edge nuclear technologies as a crucial part of the country’s approach to tackling climate change.