A reactor in Idaho could change the future of nuclear energy — if it survives Trump’s budget – Washington Post


The fate of a small “modular” nuclear reactor project faces a threat under Trump’s budget, which would not renew the expiring grant the Energy Department is using to fund it. Rick Perry, energy secretary, speaks about the budget today at a House hearing. (Ng Han Guan/AP)

The future of the nuclear energy in the United States may well run through rural Idaho, where the federal Energy Department, a nuclear technology company and a power utility are collaborating on a power plant that nuclear advocates hope will boost the industry’s flagging fortunes.

While the rest of the industry has struggled — with old plants shuttering and the first new reactors built in decades labor through massive delays and cost overruns — advocates are promising the Idaho project will be different. There, the companies and federal government are collaborating on what’s known as a small “modular” nuclear reactor. Unlike their larger relatives, modular reactors are to be factory-built, eliminating the safety and installation issues that often bloat construction costs, and they come with fewer nuclear waste concerns. Much smaller than the behemoths of midcentury, installers can adjust them to fill different electricity needs. Some could be small enough to power a single manufacturing facility. Advocates say small modular reactors will be safer, cheaper and more nimble than the older reactors utilities are fighting to preserve.

But the still-nascent technology faces a threat: President Trump’s budget would not renew the expiring grant that the Energy Department is using to help fund the project as it goes through a lengthy and expensive development phase. So far NuScale, the technology company after which the project is named, has spent more than $400 million designing its reactor and still has about $600 million more spend through the final push. But even if everything proceeds on schedule, the plant won’t produce any power or draw any revenue until 2025.

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