Portland-based NuScale Power LLC is boosting its profile in Richland, with the addition of a control room simulator at its Jadwin Avenue office.
The Oregon State University spinoff is developing small modular nuclear power plant technology. It maintains corporate offices in Portland and London, with smaller offices in Richland as well as Charlotte, N.C., Rockville, Md., and Corvallis, Ore.
On March 15, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission accepted NuScale’s 12,000-page design certification application, setting the stage for the company to deploy a 600-megawatt system consisting of 12 of its 50 megawatt nuclear modules.
The small modular reactor — or SMR — approach allows it to fabricate small reactors in factories, then assemble them into power plants on site.
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Supporters say the approach is safer and offers a nimble approach to developing nuclear resources. Critics say the U.S. needs to develop long-term storage for spent nuclear fuel before it embraces additional nuclear development.
The control room simulator in the Richland office will serve as a training center for future operators and will give personnel from its partner, Energy Northwest, a place to familiarize themselves with the NuScale plant design and operation, according to Carl Markert, vice president for operations and plant services.
Energy Northwest operates the Northwest’s only commercial nuclear power plant, the 1,200-megawatt Columbia Generating Station north of Richland.
In late 2013, the U.S. Department of Energy selected NuScale to develop SMR technology. The following year, the two entered a five-year, $217 million cost-share contract to ready the technology for regulatory review.
NuScale signed up its first customer the same year, the Utah Area Municipal Power System. UAMPS is a multi-state agency pursuing smart energy.
UAMPS selected NuScale and Energy Northwest to develop its first carbon-free power project. The 12-unit installation is expected to be sited near DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory near Idaho Falls.
State Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick, praised the move to increase the scope of its Richland office.
“Having this simulator in our state will help me make the case for SMR technology to the public, members of the media and other lawmakers,” she said in a press release.
Despite NuScale’s deep roots in Oregon, its operations are curtailed in its home state. In 1980, Oregon voters banned the construction of new power plants and a decade later Portland General Electric decommissioned its Trojan nuclear reactor.
Oregon lawmakers, mindful of NuScale’s massive business potential, toyed with creating a nuclear task force in 2015 to study the feasibility of revisiting the ban.
Last week, U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., led an effort to recruit 17 Republican representatives to send a letter to President Donald Trump asking that SMR funding be included in his 2018 budget.
Energy Secretary Rick Perry has called small modular reactor technology “fascinating.”