NuScale plans to build a demonstration small modular reactor (SMR) power plant at the Idaho National Laboratory. If successful, the six-reactor, 462 megawatt Carbon Free Power Project will run in 2030.
NuScale said in January the target price for power from the plant is $89 per megawatt hour, up 53% from the previous estimate of $58 per MWh, a jump that raised concerns about whether customers would be willing to pay for the power it generates.
But the consortium of cities in Utah, Idaho, New Mexico and Nevada called Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, or UAMPS, greenlighted the project’s budget and finance plan with 26 of 27 approving.
The consortium originally had 30 members but three dropped out starting in 2020 amid rising costs and delays.
The next step, an application to construct and operate the plant, is expected to be submitted to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission early next year.
Mason Baker, the UAMPS chief executive and general manager, said the cities felt the project remained viable because rising prices for steel, copper, and cable were not unique to NuScale.
“The project will support our decarbonization efforts, complement and enable more renewable energy, and keep the grid stable,” Baker said. “It will produce steady, carbon-free energy for 40 years or longer.
Backers of next generation nuclear power technologies, including the Biden administration, believe small modular reactors can be built quickly once scaled and will be crucial in curbing climate change.
Critics say the technology is too expensive compared to renewable energy and energy storage and that the reactors will produce radioactive waste, a problem that has boosted costs for traditional nuclear plants.
The U.S. Department of Energy in 2020 approved $1.35 billion over 10 years for the project, subject to congressional appropriations.