Mark Peters

Mark Peters

The U.S. Department of Energy has signed a deal to use some of the power generated by small modular reactors being planned for eastern Idaho.

NuScale Power plans to build the 12 small nuclear reactors, producing 720 megawatts between them, at Idaho National Laboratory’s desert site. They will help provide power to Idaho Falls and to parts of Utah through Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems. The small modular reactors are going through the permitting process now and construction is expected to start in the mid-2020s.

Friday morning, DOE announced it has signed a memorandum of understanding with Battelle Energy Alliance, the contractor that manages INL, and UAMPS. The deal says one of the 12 modules will be designated for research, principally focused on “integrated energy systems that support the production of both electricity and non-electric energy products,” DOE said in a news release. It will be called the Joint Use Modular Plant, or JUMP. And a second module will supply power to INL.

“Not only will this first-of-its-kind technology be located on the INL site, but it also will provide power to the laboratory while enabling valuable research,” INL Director Mark Peters said in an email. “This is exciting to all of us at INL and an excellent example of how private-public partnerships will allow for the demonstration and delivery of advanced nuclear energy systems.”

The deal says DOE and UAMPS will work with Idaho Power to make sure it can draw enough power from the project to supply INL. INL expects to need up to 70 megawatts of power in the 2025-2030 time frame.

“This agreement will allow DOE to meet its needs in the form of resilient power to a national security mission-based lab while drawing from our nation’s newest class of advanced reactors,” said Ed McGinnis, principal deputy assistant secretary for the Office of Nuclear Energy, in the release. “The JUMP program provides a unique opportunity for the nation’s leading nuclear laboratory to conduct nuclear energy research, and contribute to the successful commercialization of the nation’s first (small modular reactor).”

NuScale chairman and CEO John Hopkins said he was “proud to play a role in helping the U.S. maintain its leadership and influence in the broader international community.”

“NuScale is excited to provide a cost-effective, one-of-a-kind opportunity for the national laboratory to conduct critical research, development and demonstration activities at the country’s first commercial (small modular reactor),” he said. “NuScale’s involvement in the JUMP program is yet another way we are revolutionizing the face of nuclear energy and charging ahead with the clean, safe and resilient energy of the future.”

According to a memo from UAMPS, the deal demonstrates DOE’s “high degree of overall support for and confidence in” the project. The deal will increase the overall subscription in the plant by 120 megawatts, bringing it closer to the 720-megawatt use goal. DOE support could also include collaboration during the project’s pre-construction, construction and licensing periods, including financial assistance, contracts and technology investment agreements.

“We appreciate the confidence and support of the DOE and INL represented by this MOU,” said UAMPS CEO and General Manager Doug Hunter. “We are pleased to provide one reactor module of the (Carbon Free Power Project) to supply reliable, resilient electrical energy for INL’s future energy needs. Reserving a second small reactor module for research and development will allow INL to do what it does best — conduct world-leading research and innovation leading to abundant, carbon-free energy.”

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