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Xcel Energy could become a key partner in the small modular reactor (SMR) plant to be located at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory.

The Minneapolis-based utility and project developer Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) agreed to terms outlining a process, roles and next steps to be taken if Xcel were to become potential operator of the reactor, manufactured by NuScale Power.

The term sheet committed both parties to work toward a contract in mid-2022. Xcel Energy would provide a variety of services that could include direct operations.

Xcel would also help with Nuclear Regulatory Commission review, consulting on the design and construction of the plant, refining operating cost estimates, developing an operational and governance model, quality assurance, training, emergency planning, human resources and security programs.

Xcel had earlier signed an agreement with NuScale to explore becoming a preferred plant operator for its other SMRs. This Idaho project would be one of the first, with the first module projected to come online in 2029 and all six modules online by 2030.

SMR plant cutaway (Courtesy: NuScale).

In 2020, NuScale received U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission approval on its SMR design, the first design approval for a small commercial nuclear reactor. SMRs have a smaller footprint, capacity and anticipated cost than traditional high-capacity nuclear power plants.

NuScale is among several companies developing SMRs, with the intent of reigniting the country’s nuclear power sector. The company touts its reactors as “smarter, cleaner, safer and cost competitive,” adding that the SMRs are well-suited for placement at retiring coal plant sites, preserving critical jobs in the energy industry and helping communities decarbonize.

In February, NuScale and Dairyland Power Cooperative signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to evaluate the potential deployment of NuScale’s small modular reactor (SMR) nuclear technology. The MOU signing means the Wisconsin co-op will explore adding NuScale’s SMR to its generation mix.

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