Friday, August 31, 2012

NuScale Back in Action with Unexpected Support

The other day, we mentioned Babcock & Wilcox’s small reactor project and its indirect use in the Gubernatorial race in Indiana. Now, another vendor of small reactors, NuScale, has attracted some press attention from Reuters. It’s especially nice to see that NuScale has overcome its financial difficulties.

NuScale staff half-jokingly refer to the first half of 2011 as the "Great Pause," when NuScale could not pay its bills and dozens among its 100 employees at the time had to be let go. It now employs 260 people, and hopes to add another 70 by year-end.

And how did it do this, at least in part?

But NuScale is trumpeting the safety aspects of its new technology, and has found helpful supporters including U.S. engineering giant Fluor Corp, which bought a majority stake in the 5-year-old company last October.

Fluor is no stranger to the nuclear energy business. Start here for more on its activities. Fluor has been around for much of the nuclear age.

Like Indiana, Oregon, where NuScale is located, has no nuclear energy facilities. It closed its one plant, called Trojan, in 1992. But, as with Pence in the Hoosier state, NuScale has found some support from the Beavers.

Yet the NuScale design has managed to win over Oregon's national representatives, who tend to be against nuclear power. Senator Jeff Merkley, a self-described "proud progressive," surprised [NuScale Chief Executive Paul] Lorenzini by throwing his support behind SMRs.

The story talks a bit about other subjects – and is interesting in general – but the key point is that NuScale has found a path forward. There are a lot of hurdles yet to clear in the small reactor arena and some of the numerous competitors will probably fail as the marketplace develops. But let’s at least have the marketplace develop some more before/if the winnowing starts.

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If friends knew that I don’t like mushrooms, they might tease me by telling me they love them.

Then I would say, “Mushrooms wouldn’t exist without government help. No one would eat them.”

“But did you see the study that mushrooms are a great source of potassium?”

“More propaganda from the mushroom brigade,” says I. “Mushrooms are just dolled-up toadstools.”

And on and on.

So, in the middle of his story on NuScale, writer Braden Reddall felt the need to get the other side.

"SMRs are just the next chapter in a nuclear industry that can't stand up on its own," said Don Hancock, director for nuclear waste safety at the Southwest Research and Information Center. "So it always has to be funded by the government."

It can’t be fun having reporters calling on you to play the tarantula on the valentine all the time. I wonder if his friends tell him how much they’d like more nuclear energy facilities in the area.

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