Idaho government predicts economic boom from first SMR

NuScale's first Small Modular Reactor is forecast to generate 12,808 local jobs during construction, 1,507 during operations and the developer has identified new cost reductions for multiple plants as talks advance with global suppliers.

Power cooperative Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) revealed last month a preferred 35-acre site within the U.S. Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory (INL) on which NuScale will build the U.S.' first commercial SMR.

NuScale is to deliver the 600 MW Pressurized Water Plant to UAMPS by 2024-2025 and the decision to choose a plot near Idaho Falls represents a significant boost to the city’s economy.

Idaho Falls has a population of 54,334 and a new report by the Idaho Department of Labor has forecast that 1,000 direct construction jobs on the project would create or support an additional 11,808 local jobs through "inter-industry" trade and local services for the new workforce. In total, the project would create almost $4 billion of new industry revenues in Idaho Falls, the report said.

NuScale expects direct construction jobs to peak at 1,100 employees and this would last for much of the three-year site build, Mike McGough, Chief Operating Officer of NuScale, told Nuclear Energy Insider in an interview.

"It's a small community of 1,100 people that has to be supported," he said.

Hope Morrow, a regional economist at the Idaho Department of Labor, said the proposed plant would have a significant impact on the region and local government would work with local businesses to ensure employees can find work once the project is completed.

“It’s definitely something we are going to have to look at ahead of time,” she said.

Source: Idaho Department of Labor's analysis of the impact of the UAMPS SMR project on Idaho Falls.

The report took direct employment projections by Nuscale and used economic impact modelling software to forecast the impact on the local economy.

Sustainable jobs

The new plant will also support long term employment in Idaho Falls. NuScale expects the plant to directly employ 360 workers when it is online and the Department of Labor expects the new income to support a total of 1500 local jobs, equating to annual revenues of $389 million for local industry.

Direct plant operations jobs would include roles such as engineers, system managers, control room staff and security positions, McGough said.

"Average wages in those jobs is about $85,000 in today's dollars," he noted.

The INL site spans some 570,000 acres of land and employs 4,000 people in applied engineering, interim storage, and research and development facilities. According to UAMPS spokesman LaVarr Webb, there is an established "nuclear ecosystem" which will help to attract new workers into the area.

"We anticipate more people being brought in, university programs, training young people for careers in this industry," he said.

Molten salt reactor developer Terrestrial Energy also recently named the INL as a leading potential site for its first U.S. commercial plant. Terrestrial Energy is working with INL to develop one of several siting plans, it said September 13.

NuScale plans to submit the full design license application for its SMR to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission later this year and site preparation and module fabrication for the UAMPS plant is expected to start in 2019, according to a project schedule published by UAMPS earlier this year.

The first 50 MW NuScale power module is scheduled to start commercial operation in 2024 and all twelve units are expected to be operational by late 2025.

Global outlook

For wider global deployment of the NuScale technology, the optimisation of manufacturing processes is key to maximizing economies of series. NuScale is in talks with a number of global suppliers and new data has shown that the costs for multiple plants may be lower than previous estimates, McGough said.

NuScale has estimated an overnight capital cost of $5,078/kWe and Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE) of around $100/MWh for the first plant, predicting LCOE would fall to $90/MWh or below for multiple reactors. However, these estimates are based on a number of line items from around 2014 and the company is re-evaluating these figures, McGough said.

These estimates forecasted material cost savings of up to 8% compared with the FOAK price as well as EPC cost savings of between 5% and 10% and module cost savings of 10%-20%.

"One of the areas we think we have not done a full job of capturing is what are the buydowns associated with large numbers of various components," he said.

NuScale expects to decide on a preferred supplier for its power modules in 2017 and the location of the manufacturing facilities would depend on the selected supplier, McGough said.

"It may be one entity, more likely to be a group of entities that work together to fabricate the various components and then assemble them into the power module," he said.

A small number of modules could be made using existing manufacturing capability, but McGough expects construction of a purpose-built factory to begin by 2020. A purpose-built factory could produce around 30 modules per year and employ 400 or 500 factory workers, according to NuScale's rough plans.

"Our long-term view is that will have one in the U.S., one somewhere in Europe-- possibly in the UK-- and one somewhere in Asia-- possibly Japan-- as our backlog grows," McGough said.

Nuclear Energy Insider