By Braden Reddall
Dec 12 (Reuters) - NuScale Power LLC, a nuclear technology
firm majority-owned by Fluor Corp, said on Thursday it
had secured U.S. Department of Energy funding to develop small
nuclear reactors just over a year after missing out in a
previous award round.
The DoE's cost-sharing program will provide an amount of
money that is still to be negotiated out of a $452 million fund
aimed at developing small modular reactor (SMR) technology,
The award last year ended up going to Babcock & Wilcox
, a well established provider to the U.S. government
after years working with nuclear submarines.
John Hopkins, a former Fluor executive in the UK who took
over as NuScale's chief executive a year ago, said he viewed the
recent addition of Britain's Rolls Royce as a
manufacturing partner as a key step in bolstering NuScale's
"This past year has been a Herculean effort by people within
NuScale and within Fluor," Hopkins said in an interview.
NuScale's 45-megawatt reactor, which can be grouped with
others to form a utility-scale plant, would sit in a 5
million-gallon pool of water underground. That means it needs no
pumps to inject water to cool it in an emergency - an issue
Hopkins said was highlighted by Japan's crippled Fukushima
Cost is also a dominant challenge for nuclear power, 60
percent of the small reactors are built in a factory and
therefore easier to finance in increments than the $6 billion
minimum for existing reactor designs of 1,000 MW or more.
NuScale and the DoE will now negotiate a deal to formalize
the public-private relationship and establish milestones for the
five-year funding program. The company will pursue design
certification from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and
Hopkins said he hoped to have a module working by 2022.
NuScale will match all the federal funds, and Fluor said in
a statement that both the company and NuScale were evaluating
potential investors and partners for the technology.
U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said the department was
committed to strengthening nuclear energy's role in the
country's "low carbon future."
Friends of the Earth saw the DoE subsidy as evidence that
the "imaginary reactors" were uncompetitive in a free market.
"The biggest hurdle will be in securing construction funds
and no private money has yet been forthcoming as SMRs are only
speculative at this point," said Tom Clements, southeastern
nuclear campaign coordinator for Friends of the Earth.
NuScale's design was first developed with DoE cash in 2000,
before being refined with Oregon State University backing. The
firm secured the patents by giving OSU an equity stake.
Before Fluor stepped in, NuScale found itself on the verge
of collapse in 2011 after a key backer, hedge fund manager
Francisco Illarramendi, was caught running a Ponzi scheme.