In a series of blows to the Biden administration’s clean energy goals, the termination of the first-of-a-kind small modular nuclear reactor power plant project by NuScale Power has raised concerns about the viability of advanced nuclear technology in the United States. This comes on the heels of last week’s cancellations of two major offshore wind projects, signaling challenges for President Joe Biden’s ambitious renewable energy targets.
NuScale’s Ambitious Project Comes to an Abrupt Halt:
NuScale Power, based in Oregon, was working on a groundbreaking project with a group of Utah utilities to establish a six-reactor plant at the Idaho National Laboratory. This project, the first of its kind in the U.S., aimed to generate enough electricity to power over 300,000 homes, replacing energy from closing coal plants. Unfortunately, the decade-long effort was terminated on Wednesday, dealing a significant blow to the advancement of small modular nuclear reactor technology.
Broader Implications for Clean Energy Goals:
The cancellation of NuScale’s project follows the scrapping of two large offshore wind projects in New Jersey, contributing to setbacks in President Biden’s plan to achieve 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030. These recent developments raise questions about the challenges faced by the clean energy sector, including supply chain issues, high interest rates, and difficulties in obtaining desired tax credits.
Energy Department Responds to Setbacks:
The U.S. Department of Energy expressed disappointment over the termination of NuScale’s project, acknowledging the inherent challenges in first-of-a-kind deployments. Despite the setbacks, the Energy Department emphasized the importance of advanced nuclear energy technology in meeting the administration’s clean energy goals. Officials believe that the knowledge gained from the project will be valuable for future nuclear energy initiatives.
Financial and Operational Challenges:
The cancellation of the Idaho project drew parallels to past energy-related setbacks, such as the bankruptcy of Solyndra, a California solar company that received federal funding from the Obama administration. NuScale cited a lack of subscriptions from local power providers and increased costs, with expenses rising by more than 50% in the last two years, reaching $89 per megawatt hour.
Industry Reaction and Future Prospects:
While the Nuclear Energy Institute expressed disappointment in the cancellation, it acknowledged the difficulties inherent in developing new technologies. NuScale, despite this setback, remains optimistic about bringing its technology to the market and is currently seeking certification for an upgraded 77-megawatt design. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission noted that other companies are close to submitting their designs for certification, indicating ongoing activity within the industry.
In the face of these challenges, the Biden administration faces a critical juncture in its pursuit of a cleaner and more sustainable energy future. The setbacks underscore the complexities involved in advancing both nuclear and renewable energy technologies and highlight the need for continued innovation and support to overcome obstacles in the transition to a low-carbon energy landscape.