Ross Snuggerud

During a March 5 media tour of NuScale’s Corvallis, Ore., facilities, Ross Snuggerud, NuScale plant operations supervisor, shows reporters the company’s simulator for the control room that will be used for 12 small modular reactors at the desert site west of Idaho Falls.

The company that plans to build 12 small nuclear reactors near Idaho Falls has received federal grants to build reactor plant simulators at three universities, including at the Center for Advanced Energy Studies, a research and education consortium between Idaho National Laboratory, Boise State University, Idaho State University, the University of Idaho and the University of Wyoming.

NuScale Power announced it received the U.S. Department of Energy grants on Thursday. Simulators will be built in Idaho Falls, at Oregon State University and at Texas A&M University-College Station.

The simulators are virtual nuclear power plant control rooms than let universities and national laboratories observe nuclear plant behavior from the control room. In Idaho, NuScale is working with Richard Christensen, director of nuclear engineering for the U of I. NuScale said the simulators will be used for research and education at the universities, as well as outreach to younger school students and public advocacy for nuclear power and small modular reactor technology.

“We are very grateful to our university partners for their collaboration and eagerness to participate in this project, and to the Department of Energy for its continued support of NuScale’s groundbreaking work in the advanced nuclear industry,” John Hopkins, chairman and chief executive officer of NuScale Power, said in a statement. “These simulator facilities will create new research opportunities and help ensure that we educate future generations about the important role nuclear power and SMR technology will play in attaining a safe, clean and secure energy future for our country.”

The grants are for $843,986 total, of which $285,763 is to build the Idaho Falls simulator.

“The simulator will provide the CAES Universities and the National Laboratory system an open location to conduct research related to the use of modular reactors for flexible operation, process heat, inclusion in hybrid energy systems, cybersecurity analysis, and electricity generation,” according to a summary from DOE’s Nuclear Energy University Program. “Additional areas of research that can be explored with the remote simulator include human factors engineering, human-system interface design, advanced diagnostics, and plant control room automation, and serve as (a Nuclear Science User Facilities) site wherein students and professors from the Intermountain region and the rest of the country can perform research.”

The summary says it will give undergraduate students at the four universities affiliated with CAES “an opportunity to amplify their understanding of basic nuclear engineering principles by observing the reactor response to simulated transients, giving them a deeper understanding of the design simplicity and safety of small modular reactors. Additionally, it will provide outreach to the Intermountain region through demonstrations, tours, and education to community leaders, K-12 students, junior college students, and interested citizens,” as well as serving as a preliminary training site for NuScale reactor operators and “allow high school students to gain insight into career opportunities in the nuclear industry.”

NuScale and Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems plan to build 12 small modular reactors, producing 720 megawatts of power, at the DOE desert site west of Idaho Falls to help power Idaho Falls and other UAMPS member cities and also providing power and help with research to INL. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is reviewing the proposal now. The reactors are expected to be operational by the mid-2020s.

Reporter Nathan Brown can be reached at 208-542-6757. Follow him on Twitter: @NateBrownNews.